Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Helpful hints, volume 2

More tips from the experts on handling homework assignments effectively! I've gotten another response to my call for advice from the students who're doing pretty spiffily on the MATH 280 homework. Please let me know if you find this information helpful by responding in the comments section. (Oh, yeah, and this is post #250. Staying power!)

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3. Write. Right? Right!

So i get a new homework (yay!). Here's what i do and typically in this order:

1) Understand the class notes! The concepts of the homework usually correspond to the class notes, so understanding them will help in understand the homework.

Also, the techniques used to solve the class examples are typically useful for the homework problems. I acutally try rewriting many of the proof examples from the notes until i understand them because let's face it: i would never have come up with those things on my own. also, rewriting them helps me understand them. it took me two weeks to understand what union and intersection meant. i still don't understand the inductive proof about the size of a power set, |P(S)|=2^n. but once i do it will become useful for proving many other things.

2) understand the homework question. I learned from my first homework that it does no good to attempt an answer when you don't know what is being asked. if you don't understand the question, ask. if you still don't understand, ask again.

3) when actually trying to solve the problems it helps to write, write, write, write, and write some more. literally play around with it. i usually have a couple pages of calculations with any given problem because i need to see the pattern and how to use it (like the 3x+5y problem? i had like 4 pages of lists of sums! but sonuvabitch, i got that problem right!)

have you ever learned to play a musical instrument before? you don't just learn scales, you play around on it. you ever take a drawing class? you don't just draw fruit in a bowl, you doodle. you ever played on a basketball team? you don't just run practices, you play around and goof off. same with math (or at least it should be). just fiddle around with it until you start to see what you want.

it can help to literally write out "What I know:" and then near it "What I need to know:" Sounds trite but it can help.

and sometimes i will literally write at the top of the page "Theorem: blah, blah, blah. Proof: we need to show etc." then i write at the bottom of the page "Thus, conclusion." then i go back and just try filling it in. the point is to write, write, write.

and keep all your notes and attempts! don't throw them away. you may try something at first, realize it's wrong and toss it. only to realize later that you were right and you need that page to refrence back. (don't you hate that? you thought you were wrong but it turned out you were right? happens to me all the time.)

4) make a complete rough draft. remember the 4c's? Correctness, completeness, clarity, composition? forget it. just do correctness and completeness. just make sure you get ALL the information you need on paper and make sure its CORRECT. after you have all that done, run it by someone. Patrick, or maybe a math lab person, or anyone who knows this stuff (just make sure they don't give you the answers). THEN you can go back and make it more clear and pretty. I once had a rough draft of a single problem that was a page and a half. a page and a half! my final revision was less than a paragraph long. And it was nice.

If you can finish all this stuff before it's due you can always ask a teacher to double-check it. Most teachers are willing to read final drafts if you present them well enough before the due date (you do have to ask first, of course).

i only spend about 6 hours total on each homework set. Maybe 2 hours by monday, by wed (and another couple of hours later) i have my drafts written and looked over, and thurs i finish typing them. i don't do it all at once because my brain won't figure it out if i try that. and believe me, i've tried.

and if all else fails, become an english major.

1 comment:

Maughta said...

I've read 250 math posts?! I deserve some kind of medal.