College Math Teaching

September 24, 2012

Advice to students: LEARN from your homework assignments!

Filed under: editorial, how to learn calculus, mathematics education, pedagogy — collegemathteaching @ 9:14 pm

This is going to sound a bit banal, but I think that this is sometimes overlooked.

College students are sometimes under time pressures; therefore it is common for them to view a homework assignment as a task to be “checked off” when completed and a hoop to jump through for a grade.

But that is exactly the wrong approach to take with regards to homework.

Homework is designed to help the student learn the material; that is, the student who does a homework problem should be just a bit smarter and more knowledgeable after completing the assignment (and each problem, for that matter!) than they were prior to starting the assignment.

So, my advice to doing the problems: be sure to do a few problems with your book shut and notes closed; that is how you learn if you really know the stuff or not. Then ask yourself: “why did I do the first step?” “Why did I do the next step?” “Why this approach and not another one?”

After doing the problem (or a set of problems), ask yourself: “what did I learn from this?”

Then, when it comes to review, I suggest writing down some problems on sheets of paper, scrambling the sheets, and then shutting the book and closing the notes. Why?
Many times, 75 percent of the problem is knowing WHAT technique to use.

Remember: homework is designed to help you learn.

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