For a lot of students, math is the least exciting class on their schedule. It was hard enough in high school, but college math takes things to a whole new level! As an engineering major, I’m taking a math class pretty much every semester for my entire college career, so I’ve had to come up with some fool-proof strategies to keep my GPA up. Today I want to share my most successful tips with you and offer some first-hand advice at going from a C to an A in your math class!
1. Understand how each topic connects to previous ones
Math classes are usually taught on a particular subsection, like calculus, algebra, or geometry. That means every lesson you’re given is connected to the others in some way, because they’re all under an umbrella of one subsection. Understanding how those lessons connect will really help you on new or tough problems, because if you don’t understand part of the problem, you can think about what other methods you’ve already learned to solve it a different way!
2. Do your homework problems until you’re totally comfortable with them
It’s probably your least favorite thing to do, but practicing your homework problems will help you more than anything else. Most professors will assign problems that are either similar or even harder than the ones you’ll see on the exam, so if you can become completely confident with solving them, the tests will be a breeze!
If you’re struggling with a problem, don’t be afraid to scratch it out and start fresh. I like keeping a notebook specifically for math homework because I take up so many pages redoing problems!
3. Know how to do everything by hand
Calculators are your best friend in math, until your professor says they’re not allowed on the exam. Don’t fall into the trap of becoming totally dependent on your calculator! Knowing how to do all of your problems by hand will save you tons of confusion on your exams, and you’ll also understand the concepts better when you know each step taken to get to the solution.
4. If you’re not understanding something, try learning from someone new
Some professors just don’t explain things well, and it’s not your fault that you don’t understand their lessons. I had a professor so confusing that I stopped going to class and went to a tutor for every lesson! I don’t recommend ditching class altogether (oops), but sometimes finding a new perspective on a lesson can really help. Tutors are great, whether they’re an assistant for the class or just a student looking for some extra cash! Tutorial websites were the most helpful for me though, which I’ll explain more in the next tip.
5. Check out these fantastic online resources
If you’ve never heard of Paul’s Online Math Notes, then you must’ve never googled for help on a math problem in your life. That website got me through every math class I’ve ever taken, from algebra to differential equations. His notes are super detailed and explain topics really well, along with providing step-by-step examples. Here are some other great sites that I’ve used:
- Khan Academy – great for other subjects too
- WolframAlpha – paying for Pro and getting the step-by-step solutions is totally worth it!
- patrickJMT – great for calculus and differential equations
6. Make your own study guide before each test
The luxury of study guides in high school pretty much disappears in college. You might be given a list of topics to study or a few problems to practice, but that’s about it. I made a habit of creating my own study guides before each exam, and it’s so helpful.
I start by listing the topics that will appear on the test, and devote a page or two to each of them. On those pages, I’ll write out any definitions or formulas I need to know, along with a step-by-step example problem with notes about how I got to each step. After I’ve gone through each topic, I’ll start doing any old homework problems as neatly as possible so I can study from them later. Finally, I’ll make a page of any important notes or formulas that I struggled with memorizing so I can read them over right before the test. This is probably the best habit I’ve made and it’s definitely worth the time to make one!
7. Don’t fall behind!
Like I said in the first tip, all the lessons you have are connected to each other in some way, so if you don’t learn one, there’s a good chance you’ll struggle with the lessons after it. If you miss a class or don’t understand a topic, get help asap! Just getting notes from a friend isn’t enough, because they might have missed something important or not understood the material themselves. Use one of the websites I listed above or head into office hours for some extra help, it’ll save you tons of stress later on!
If you’re looking for a way to stay organized and consistent with your study habits, I created a study worksheet you can use for any subject to keep track of your progress! To download it, just click here!
Looking for more college tips? Follow my college board for my favorites!