Mathematics and Statistics
Welcome from the Program Chair
Did you know that for every 3 credits of math you take at the college level on average your income could increase by approximately $3,000 annually? Mathematics is a field that builds skills that are important to today’s workforce. Critical-thinking, problem-solving and analytical skills are developed through mathematics and statistics. Math is a subject that requires both the belief that you can succeed and the support to achieve. These are some general strategies that I have applied based on many years of experience both as a student and as an instructor:
Strategies for Your Success…
- Believe you can succeed. Believing you can succeed is one of the most significant steps you can make towards success in this course. Once you truly believe you are capable of succeeding, you can create the space in your life to achieve your goals and to succeed in your mathematics course. In addition to believing in yourself, there are some specific steps you can take to further your path to success.
- Create a schedule for success. You want to make sure you have registered for your math course at a time that will enable you succeed. If you are taking your course online or on-site, make sure you allow yourself the appropriate amount of time necessary to succeed. A general rule of thumb is that for every semester credit hour, you should expect to invest two to three hours per week independently from the classroom. For example in a 3-credit course, you should expect to spend at least six to nine hours per week reading your text, doing your homework, studying with other students and preparing for your next math class.
- Have all your materials before the semester begins. Find out as soon as possible, ideally when you register for your course, what materials you will need for the course, as well as where you can purchase them. Make sure you have the correct edition of the textbook as well as the solutions manual if there is one. Also make sure you have any necessary supplies required of the instructor (graphing calculator, scientific calculator, etc…) Sometimes it may be impossible to have all of your textbook materials before your semester begins; in this case, make every effort to communicate this to your instructor so they can either help you with obtaining your textbook materials or provide some support while you wait for your materials to arrive.
- Exchange names and e-mails with fellow classmates on the first day of class. Make sure you have at least two different names of students in your class and their e-mail or phone number. This will come in handy if you ever need to miss a class, want to study for a test or quiz or just want to work together on homework. In the work place, you want to build a community so you can have the support you need to succeed; the same is true in your classroom.
- Attend and participate in every class. Choose to be actively engaged in your learning. Math is not a spectator sport; you need to be present in order to succeed. Ask questions, answer questions and be an active participant in your classroom. Instructors notice when their students are actively engaged in their learning.
- Do your assignments on time. Reading the textbook, reviewing examples, attempting the assigned problems and reviewing your notes are all a part of “doing your assignments.” Just as in sports, it’s important to warm up and practice in mathematics so you can perform at your best.
- Be organized. Organization is an important part of being a successful student. Organize your class notes. Write down everything the instructor presents in class even if you do not understand the concept. This way you can always go back over the materials at a later time. Keep your homework organized in a similar fashion and clearly state the section number and problem number along with the statement of the problem before you solve the problem; this way you can more easily refer to the problem and its solution at a later time. Keep all quizzes and exams organized as well; you will want to locate these materials later on.
- Empower yourself by viewing mistakes as opportunities and not as obstacles. Some of the greatest discoveries have come from mistakes (penicillin was discovered by accident). Viewing your mistakes as learning opportunities and knowing where to find help are strong indications that you are on the path to success. Your instructor is the best place to start. Beyond your instructor, there are a number of other resources you will want to know how to take advantage of. Know who among your fellow classmates to ask for help, determine whether your school has a math tutoring center (usually free) or find contact information for a personal tutor (usually for an hourly fee) from your instructor or the math department.
In addition to your textbook, there are often additional resources available either through your school or the publisher to help support you through your math course. Find out from your instructor what kinds of additional materials are available with this book. Be proactive and find this information within the first couple of weeks in your semester.
- Prepare to succeed. Prepare before class by reading your textbook, writing notes and organizing your strategy for understanding the concepts that will be discussed at your next class. Reading your mathematics text book will take time; you will often need to re-read a single page several times before the concept becomes apparent. Take advantage of the examples and try to mimic their solutions in the exercises at the end of each section. Write notes either in your text or in your notebook and write any questions for your instructor. While you may not fully understand every concept you’ve read, when you hear the lecture, you will find it’s much easier to understand once you’ve read your textbook and prepared notes and questions.
Instructors cannot always guess what concepts are clear to their students and so it’s important to be prepared with questions that are specific in nature about particular topics you find difficult to understand. The more specific you can be, the better your chances of getting a satisfactory response from your instructor.
John F. Beyers, PhD
Program Chair, Mathematics and Statistics, and