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How to Succeed in Statistics and Math Classes

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Sometimes statistics and mathematics classes can seem among the hardest that one takes at college. How can you do well in a class like this? Below are some hints and ideas to try so that you can do well in yours statistics and mathematics courses. The tips are arranged by things that you can do in class, and things that will help outside of class.

While in Class

  • Be prepared. Bring paper for notes/quizzes/tests, two writing implements, a calculator, and your textbook.
  • Be attentive. Your primary focus should be what's going on in class, not your cell phone or Facebook newsfeed.
  • Take careful and complete notes. If your instructor thinks that something is important enough to write on the board, it should be written in your notes. The examples that are given will help you when you study and work problems on your own.
  • Write the date and section covered in your notes at the beginning of each class. This will help when you study for tests.
  • Be respectful of your classmates' time and ask questions that are pertinent to the material being covered. (e.g. Why is the number of degrees of freedom one less than the sample size?) Save questions that pertain only to you (e.g. Why did I get 2 points taken off for problem number 4?") for your instructor's office hours or after class.
  • Don't feel the need to cram as much as possible on a page of notes. Leave plenty of room so that you can write your own comments when you use your notes to study.
  • When test/quiz/assignment due dates are announced, immediately write them in your notes or what you use as a calendar.

Outside of Class

  • Math is not a spectator's sport. You need to practice, practice, practice by working out problems in the homework assignments.
  • Plan on spending at least two hours studying and/or doing problems for every 50 minute class session.
  • Read your textbook. Constantly review what has been covered and read ahead to prepare yourself for class.
  • Get in the habit of consistently doing work for your courses.
  • Don't procrastinate. Start studying for your tests around a week in advance.
  • Spread out work for large assignments. If you have diffculties early on you can get help more quickly than if you wait until the night before.
  • Utilize office hours. If your schedule doesn't match your instructor's office hours, ask if it is possible to make an appointment for a different time. When you come to office hours, be ready with specific questions about what you had trouble with or didn't understand.
  • Utilize the any tutoring services that your college or university provides. Sometimes these services are offered at no cost to students.
  • Review your notes constantly.
  • Form study groups or get a study partner in each of your classes. Meet to go over questions, work on homework, and study for tests.
  • Don't lose the syllabus or any other handouts. Hold onto them until after you get your final grades. If you lose the syllabus, go to the course webpage to get a replacement.
  • If you get stuck on a problem and don't make progress on it after 15 minutes, call your study partner and continue working on the rest of the assignment.
  • take responsibility. If you know you will miss a test for any reason, let your instructor know as soon as possible.
  • Purchase the textbook. If you have an older edition of the book, it is your responsibility - not your instructor's - to see what that the sections/page numbers mentioned in class correspond with in your book.
  • If you are a statistics or math major, strongly consider keeping your textbooks and don't sell them back. Your statistics book will be convenient reference.
  • And, of course, always check to see if statistics.about.com answers whatever question you might have.
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