My Favorite Study Tool For Math Tests

My Favorite Study Tool For Math Tests

So, would you like to know the number one study tool that I used to earn a math degree and help thousands of students with their math? It’s really easy and it’s with only one piece of paper.

The Secret To Math Success

Where did this single sheet of paper come from? Let me recount my sophomore year at Western Michigan University when I began calculus. Yeah, I was a bit of a late bloomer for a math major, but come on, guys, I graduated eventually. But, you know, I was a little worried. I didn’t have much time to waste, and I certainly didn’t have time to struggle in math class. I needed to finish my math credits. But I wanted to mention it quickly for those of you who are worried about falling behind IT. Is it acceptable if you did not take calculus in high school? I took it as a sophomore in college and did fine with it. I made it. And I know you can as well. I was terrified of calculus. I had no idea what to expect.

   After one of the first few lectures, I approached my professor and asked, “Hey, what do I need to do to succeed in your class?”  But first, a quick digression for any of you. I’ve often wondered if it’s appropriate to ask that question to your teacher. I personally fully endorse it. I love it when students come up to me and ask for advice on tips to succeed. I always want to provide as much value as I can to them. So make sure you are asking these questions!   Now my teacher responded with this; “I want you to go through all of the theorems and definitions that we cover in this class and summarize and rewrite them on a sheet of paper,” the professor said without hesitation. “That is the type of study tool I want you to use as you prepare for exams throughout the year”. Now, I wasn’t completely sold on the idea. That sounded like a lot of work, especially since it wasn’t a course requirement. I already had a lot on my plate. I was taking several other classes. I already had a lot of homework and study materials, so a test like this seemed intimidating. Guess what, though? I finished it. I did it for both tests one and two. I started to see results. “I remember writing this stuff down,” I thought to myself as I took my test. It became easier for me to remember the information as I took my tests.

Then it dawned on me one day that he had essentially duped me into studying more. That’s precisely what I did.

All of the definitions, formulas, graphs and other information that we were learning were being rewritten by me. On these sheets of paper, I was taking notes, taking notes from the book, and summarizing everything. And there was nothing to show for it. I didn’t know who to show it to. Nobody had any idea what I was up to. It was just me. But the majority of my time was spent studying for my upcoming exam. And it works so well that I just kept doing it. I eventually graduated, and I credit this study tool with really helping me as a struggling math student, being able to wrap my head around a lot of concepts because math was always something I struggled with. I had to go over things in my head all the time. Many times, it felt like things would finally click after the test, and I’d be like, oh, now I get it. So, by making this cheat sheet, I was giving my brain more time to make those connections to the material review as I studied more for the testing quiz. It simply improved my information retention for each and every test.

Pass It On

I never forgot about this cheat sheet, but once I became a high school math teacher, I put it to the side because you have a lot on your plate when you first start teaching. But it wasn’t until I noticed my students weren’t studying for a test that I realized I was on the right track. I, too, had no idea how to study for a test. When I was in high school, students would ask me, “How do you study?” They mistook studying for simply doing your homework and following the study guides and reviewing your notes the night before the test. When students didn’t receive the desired grade, all I heard was, “Well, I’m just not a good test taker” or “I’m not very good at math”. I didn’t want to hear it anymore. “No, this isn’t it,” I tell them.

“You simply don’t know how to study for math.”


Listen to my advice by skipping to [3:26]

   So I told them, “Kids, this is what you’re going to do.” Take out a piece of blank paper; 11 and a half by eight inches. I want you to write down all of the definitions, formulas, and theorems that we’re learning in this class and write them down on a piece of paper. Now, I actually went above and beyond what the professor instructed me to do. Do you know what I said? I’d also like you to include any examples you worked on in class. Maybe it was a quiz question that you got wrong. Perhaps it was an incorrect answer on a test. Maybe it’s a homework problem you didn’t understand or a problem that took too many steps. You couldn’t do it on your own, or you did it incorrectly, or there was always a step you missed. Basically, if you want me to summarize what I want you to write on the sheet of paper, let me know. In a nutshell, what if I let you use the sheet of paper for your test? What information would you jot down on that piece of paper? Whatever information you have in mind, I want you to start writing it down on that sheet of paper. If you do this correctly, you should have this sheet of paper filled front and back, and it should take you about an hour to complete. Obviously, some students were hesitant, as I was when I first learned the information. They replied, “No, I’m not going to do that.” Or maybe they just do the bare minimum, maybe a quarter of it, and just do something to get it checked off the list. There are also students who believe that if Mr. Mcglogan tells them to do something, they will do it. They’d be fantastic at making their cheat sheet. And guess what, friends? It was successful. I would compare data from students who created cheat sheets to students who did not create cheat sheets. The data was crystal clear.

Students who created cheat sheets outperformed students who did not create cheat sheets.

The cheat sheet is obviously not everything. You won’t be able to save your grade if you don’t know what you’re doing. And, as I explain in this video, there are many other options for studying for a math test besides making a cheat sheet.

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The cheat sheet is extremely useful because it is something you can build on throughout the year. You can take four or six cheat sheets and compress them down to one cheat sheet. An extra cheat sheet for this semester’s exam or for the end of the year is a good idea. If you have eight or ten cheat sheets that you can quickly review, reviewing one each night isn’t so bad. This is a great way to study for each and every one of your tests.

It is not about what is on the cheat sheet, it’s about going through all of the material. Students are just really quick to give up excuses on why they struggle remembering formulas or concepts. Give your brain what it needs, which for some of you will mean more time studying. So, this worked for me, guys. Overcoming Being a math student who struggles Many of my students have benefited from it over the years. And I know it can help you as well, so please share this video if you find it useful. Feel free to like, share, and watch more of my tips in the description or the next video I have for you here.


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