What should I do before class?

  1. Read the section of the textbook before the material is discussed in class. Take a few notes. Write down any new vocabulary and any new notation. If you know what the new vocabulary and notations are and look for what seems important, it will be easier to follow the lecture (or discussion) in class.

What should I do during class?

  1. Take notes.
  2. Think in an active, rather than passive, way.
  3. Ask questions.
  4. If there is anything that you do not understand, make a quick note on your paper. This is key

What should I do after class?

  1. Look through the notes.
    • What different types of problems did we solve?
    • What were the major steps for solving each type of problem?
    • Was there a big picture of the day? If so, what is it.
    • Label things which you did not understand with a special symbol (maybe a star). Make sure you get each of your questions asked and answered within a few days.
  2. Read a few examples from the textbook. Cover up the solution and then look at just the problem statement. Try to solve the problem stated in the example. If you have trouble, look back at the solution and try again (cover the solution and then try to solve the problem). If you can't solve an example after a few tries, talk to your professor or someone else who could assist you.
  3. Work on some of the homework problems throughout the week. If you have a spare 20 minutes, try to solve a problem or two from the homework assignment.
  4. What should you do if you get stuck on a homework problem?
    • Look at each of the examples in that section of the textbook. Which examples are similar to your homework problem (and how are they similar)? Which examples are different from your homework problem (and how are they different)?
    • Look at each of the examples covered in class. Which examples are similar to your homework problem (and how are they similar)? Which examples are different from your homework problem (and how are they different)?
    • Discuss the homework questions with other students in the class.
    • Discuss it with people from a study group.
    • Discuss it with people from a tutor.
    • Ask the professor for a hint or some guidance.
    • As a last resort, look at a student solution manual.

I need more advice!

  1. Talk to the professor, classmates, a tutor or join a study group.
  2. Buy a book on studying.
  3. Learn about how the taxonomy of learning: FILL IN
  4. Are you maintaining your health and living quarters for optimal learning?
    • Eat healthy food.
    • Get enough sleep.
    • Study in an uncluttered space: a clean bedroom or living room or the library.
  5. Keep track of your studying in terms of a "journal". Review the journal once a week. How are you doing? When you choose to study, do you study with focus or is your attention divided (by friends, facebook, etc.)? Do you fall asleep during studying? Do you need to sleep more to improve your concentration? Who do you ask when you get confused or something isn't "clicking"?
  6. Think positively. Calculus has been taught and learned by many people. Cal Poly students are able to learn it.
  7. Be patient with yourself. Learning takes time. (I knew someone who hit themselves in the head with their (soft) notebook when they did not figure something out. Not a great idea.)
  8. Do you know how to take effective notes? Do you use common abbreviations?
  9. Do you have a good memory? If not, there are books you can look at which can help you improve your memory.
  10. Do you know how to effectively study with others? Have you formed study groups? (If you study with others, make sure that you understand (rather than just accept) what others are telling you and try to work a similar problem so that you prove to yourself that you are starting to understand the procedure.)
  11. Have you identified your best learning style? Do you need to hear things? See them written down?
  12. When you do a number of problems of the same type, what is common between them?
    • For example, with word problems, one often creates variables, draws pictures, write down equations which follow from the picture, identify what you are trying to do, and then continue.
  13. Could you construct a chart which help you summarize the material?
  14. Always review midterms soon after you get them back. What is the right way to do the problems which you missed? If misspellings were marked, be sure to learn the right way to spell the words (often times, bad spelling leads to bad impressions in the work place (and especially on your resume). Even though there are spell checkers in computers, you won't have them available to you when you write a note to a colleague on a piece of paper. If no points are taking off for the misspellings, then that is a real blessing --- you did something wrong but points were not taken off!!!
  15. Decide what is the minimum that you have to do each day on each subject (basically) no matter what happens. For example, you may decide that no matter what happens, you will at least glance through the book.

Proof-based Courses

Many upper division and graduate courses in mathmeatics are proof-based. Here is a list of things which you want to keep track of if you are taking a proof-based class.

  1. Be able to prove the important theorems.
  2. State definitions
  3. Verify that a set has a property
  4. Identify the big ideas
  5. Redo homework problems
  6. Reconstruct important examples
  7. Perform constructions

Books (and more) About Studying

  1. Book
  2. Book on "Study Smarter, Not Harder"
  3. Other
  4. Book on "How to Become a Strain A Student"
  5. Other 2
  6. Book on "How To Study"
  7. Other 3
  8. My favorite memory skills book
  9. Other 5
  10. Book on memory skills
  11. Other 6
  12. Book on "Study Skills"
  13. Other 7
  14. Book on study skills
  15. Other 7
  16. VHS Tape


  1. Join study groups
  2. Go to Office hours
  3. Repetition
  4. Be able to explain it to another person
  5. Take breaks (10 minutes per hour)
  6. Sleep
  7. Naps