Advice for Maths Students

Advice for Students

It's common for students who are struggling with or have been unsuccessful in an maths assignment or exam to seek out support for maths. The good news is that we have a support service that provides students with the opportunity to avail of one-to-one appointments with maths teachers to help guide them in the subject.

We have a few points of advice for students before they make an appointment and throughout their studies:

Try the question before you ask for help

It's okay to make mistakes and feel like you're stuck, this helps learning. If you don't attempt or try the questions first on your own, you won't be able to work independently and this will affect how you get on in exams. Look at your notes and attempt the question first, then you'll be able to pin-point the area that you're struggling with. Getting help with material, without knowing where you would get stuck, is not progress. 

Use your notes

The majority of questions/material has already been covered in class and instructions/solutions have been provided to you during class and online in Moodle. After you've attempted the question, you should always refer back to these notes.

Work with others in a group

Make sure you try the material yourself before working in a group with other students, so that you know where you are stuck beforehand. Sometimes, meeting with other students in a study group can help you discuss the issues you're experiencing with the material and they may be able to help give some advice. However, it's important not to be too reliant on your fellow students while completing your maths assignments, as they won't be able to help you through an exam!

Maths Assignments

Focus more on understanding the material,  rather than rushing through maths assignments and trying to get the answers correct and doing it quickly. It's far better in the long-run to get a Merit (good grade) where you understand the material rather than an Distinction (excellent grade) of which you don't really understand it fully.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Every week, you should spend time throughout the week of independent study on the topic covered that week. Every week, you can revise the topic and check your understanding of the past week's material before the next week's new material. The more you practice example questions (with the solutions), the more confident you'll feel in your learning. 

Go to Class, Then Seek Out Support

You should attend all of your classes. Teachers are there to help you, please use them for advice. However, if you feel you need additional support, avail of Mathematic Support appointments. The support staff are there to help you, they will advise you when you get stuck but will not do your assignments for you or check your answers. 

Taking Responsibility

At any stage, if you are getting help with material and you know that you haven’t tried it yourself, or you don’t understand the explanation (which is normal) but you say that you do, then you are not gaining from that help and you need to take responsibility for your own learning in those situations.  Students should bring all material relevant to their query; this includes class notes and their assignment briefs.

Study Skills in Mathematics

Classes & Class Notes

It is essential to attend all your classes.  You need to take accurate notes.  Try to listen, understand and ask questions.  Keep the notes from this module together in one place. 

Many people rewrite their notes soon after the class, or at the very least they read them again. This helps identify material that you understand, and just as important, it identifies material that you do not understand. 

Remember, maths is not an instant subject, sometimes it can take time for things to click or make sense, and this is a natural step in the process of understanding. When you first encounter a question, the hardest thing to do can often be taking the first step. Often the best first step is to write down what you know of the terms used in the question.

Working on Assignments

Start your assignment as early as you can, even if it is just to identify what the questions are asking and to locate where this material was covered in the notes.  Work on your own before looking for help, it is very important to identify what you do not know.  Use the notes but be careful not to just try adapting examples, try to understand the examples and then work on your own problem separately. Remember to use definitions and explanations in the notes, not just the examples. Relevant definitions and explanations can be used as part of your solution to help you remember the process involved.  Once you have identified what you do not know, then you should avail of help through the Maths Support service, your friends, online etc. 

How to Study 

Studying maths is not just about doing examples.  You should read notes soon after the lecture and make sure you understand them.  Make a list of items you are unsure of, and ask questions at this stage of class\tutors\maths support\friends.  

When you find something you do not understand, ask yourself WHY you do not understand it. Is it a definition you cannot follow, notation you do not understand, etc. 

Final Advice

Do not be afraid of being wrong, everyone who does maths spends their time wondering what is going on and getting things wrong. However, the difference between people who succeed and those who do not, is that the people who succeed generally ask why they’ve gone wrong, they find the mistake or the point they do not quite understand, they ask (repeatedly) for help, and when they finally understand, they learn. 

Use your corrected work as one way to identify problems, ask yourself why you got this mark, try to identify where you went wrong and seek advice on how to fix those mistakes. It is natural to be stuck, to be unsure what to do, if you look at a problem and can’t see what to do, don’t give up, try an experiment, try something. 

Finally, you need to view getting thing wrong in maths as a positive, it is an opportunity to identify where you are making errors, and subsequently following up and clarifying these issues is the best way to succeed. It can seem like a tough route to take, but you will see progress if you stick at it.