The school year is back in full swing, and many students have received their first progress reports. Whether you are doing well, or not so well with your studies it is important that you well, study! But that is sometimes the tricky part. Those text books are big! Especially math books. Today I hope to offer you some tips on how to best use your time and math text. Here are the 6 most important parts of a math text book:
- The Contents – its in the beginning and tells you what the book is about. This section is great for finding old information, especially if your class doesn’t approach the book from front to back. This is also good for taking a sneak peak of what is yet to come. Finally, you can learn where the tests, quizzes, extra practice problems, and additional resources are hiding.
- The Boxes (formulas, rules, theorems, properties, etc) - When it comes to math books, if it is in a box then it is important. If it is in a shaded box, then it is really important. Here you will find your formulas, rules, theorems, postulates, properties, equations, etc. This boxed info should automatically be copied on your “cheat-sheet” if you are allowed one. Perhaps more importantly than the boxed information itself, however is understanding what it means. Consider copying it down word for word, but then do so in your own words as well. If you own your text book, mark these pages for easy reference.
- Examples/Solutions - Most math texts I have seen always begin each section with examples. Later, the practice problems are often the same examples just with different numbers. Try working through each example along with your text and then try a practice problem that relates. If (when) you get stuck on your homework or studying flip back to the beginning of the section to find the example which applies. Remember that math builds upon what you learned before, so you may have to go back a few sections (or chapters) to find the info you are looking for.
- Tests/Quizzes - I am absolutely amazed at how many teachers copy their own tests and quizzes directly from the text book which their students are using! Sometimes they will assign the even numbered problems for a review and then the odd numbered problems will show up on a test. Other than a sneak peak at tests, this is the best way for you to determine if you really know the material or if you need extra work. Text books will often refer you to the section a particular problem came from if you need to go back for a refresher.
- Index - This is like the contents, except it is in the back of the book. Indices (plural for index) are great if you are looking up a specific topic which may be in several different sections. They are also good if your book does not have a glossary and you just need a simple definition or formula. Instead of endlessly flipping through your book for the Quadratic Formula (which I can never remember), just look it up in your index and you will know exactly where to go.
- The Answers – Every lazy student’s favorite part. But don’t abuse it; there is a right way and a wrong way to use this important part of the book. Answers to extra, unassigned homework problems because you really want to understand = good. Answers so that you can get back to the Playstation sooner = bad.
Did I miss any important parts of the math text book? Use the comments feature to weigh in. It’s nice to be back for the 2009-2010 school year.