Doubt Yourself (check what you believe are facts)

That's a harsh title and possibly needs to be re-worded. Some students already doubt themselves too much and second guess themselves at every step in problem solving. That's not what I'm talking about. Here's what I mean: when you are learning to solve new problems, question whether you really understand the concepts. One way to do this is to try solving a problem using more than one technique. If you don't come up with the same answer, you may have a fundamental misunderstanding of the problem.

Seek to Understand the Concepts

You don't get good at math by simply solving the problems that you are given. Students who are successful in math struggle with their homework until they understand why the techniques work. Simply doing the homework is not enough. In the past, it was just you and your textbook and if you didn't get the homework assignment, you were stuck. In today's world, you have many, many options to get you through the math.

Here are several common mistakes that students make when doing their homework (and classwork):

- Don't reach for the calculator for every computation. If you don't understand how to do the math with pencil and paper, it's possible you will misuse the calculator as well. Calculators are bad for students that do not have the fundamentals down. The calculator gives you an answer whether it's correct or not and sometimes we just accept that answer and move on. Instead, I say struggle with the math. Take the time to remind yourself about how to compute with decimals and fractions and percents and if you can't remember, either find someone who can or seek clarification via Google or Khan Academy.

- Don't convert all your fractions to decimals. Learn to work with fractions. Students who attempt to convert all fractions to decimals are looking for an easy way out. If that helps you on a test, fine. But it's not a good study technique. If you learn to work with fractions, you will perform better on tests. You can come to me for suggestions about how to improve your skills with fractions. There are plenty of good videos and online tutorials as well.

- Don't write down answers off the top of your head unless you are absolutely sure you are correct. This is a good example of "Doubt Yourself." Your homework time is the time for you to look up concepts and examine examples in the book and on the internet. Take advantage of the resources that are available to you.

Once you do understand, practice, practice, practice

Sadly, practicing a lot does not always help. Practice is only useful if you understand the material correctly. So, the first thing you must do is struggle with the material. Tests are 80% of your grade. If you have misconceptions about the concepts and you practice them during homework, you cannot hope to get the grade you desire on tests or in the class. So, invest the time during homework to research the methods and techniques and concepts you use during homework. Then, when you honestly believe you understand the material, do not stop. You should be able to answer all of your homework problems without notes. So, use your notes the first time through, but then attempt to do the problems without your notes and without help from videos or a tutor. It's ok if you still need to consult your notes the second time through, but if you can't solve the problems without your notes, you must attempt the problems again and again until you can get through them with no notes or assistance. That's the only way to ensure success on tests in math class.