This is a continuation of the previous post, essentially collecting thoughts for first year students. I am asking you, the reader to suggest what might be wrong, or missing from this, and anything else which will be helpful for a new first year who is just arriving at university to study maths…
The next part of the resource book is written by a former first year who very helpfully wrote “How I achieved over 80% in MAM1000W”. I am not including this here as I shan’t be altering what he has written
The next section is entitled “Tutorials”, and helps to make the tutorial problem sets and tutorial sessions themselves as useful as possible.
The weekly tutorial questions which you will be given to help practice what you’ve learnt in class are renowned for being time-intensive. This is true, but on top of going to lectures, these are the key element of the course for helping you to really master its content. The time invested every week in finishing the problems will truly pay, for years to come, as you realise how much you have worked your brain in new and interesting ways!
A time to think (and do)…
Tutorials are opportunities for you to brainstorm your MAM1000W problems, and practice. As I mentioned before, practice really is key to mastering mathematics, but this practice can come in a number of different ways. Sitting on your own and working through problems is very important, and in fact struggle is really a vital aspect of getting good at maths. This doesn’t mean that it has to be painful, and in fact becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable is a key skill to gain over the year. What on Earth could this mean?
When you first come across a question that you can’t answer, you have three options. In increasing order of difficulty:
- You can give up and look up the answer elsewhere.
- You can put it aside and come back to it another time.
- You can keep plugging away at it.
All of these options have a time and a place, but getting the balance right is key. here is my guide for getting the most out of your mathematics practice.
If you can’t answer a question on first sight:
- Write down everything you know about the problem.
- See if you can reword the problem in a way which makes it clearer to you as to how to solve it.
- Start with a clean page and see if you can find the answer without looking through what you’ve already done.
- If you still can’t do it, put the question aside and come back to it in an hour or two.
- If you still can’t do it, come back to it the next day.
- If you still can’t do it the following day, then ask someone else who has recently worked through it – you will be doing them a favour, because explaining a concept is a great way to reinforce your own understanding.
- If they don’t know how to do it, see if you can look up the answer, but write it down yourself and make sure you really understand it.
- Try and do the question again the next day without looking at the answer you saw yesterday.
- If all of these fail, speak with a lecturer or a tutor.
What this really means is that being in a state of not knowing the answer to a question is ok. You don’t have to look it up straight away. Spend time letting your subconscious mind do some work for you.
…and a time to talk (and do)
So, all this being said, while spending time sitting on your own doing practice questions is important, brainstorming with others is also a very helpful part of the learning process and this is where the tutorial sessions come in. Each week you will get a set of tutorial problems which will be a part of the learning process. Going through these and making sure that you really can do them and understand them thoroughly will set you up well for succeeding in the exams.
Each set of tutorial problems consists of:
- Some problems from the textbook (the 4th metric international edition of “Calculus: Concepts and Contexts” by James Stewart), and,
- Some extra problems from this Resource Book.
There are rather a lot of MAM1000W tutorial questions. That’s because there’s rather a lot of material in MAM1000W. The best strategy you can adopt to do well in MAM1000W is to do all of these many tutorial questions. You will almost certainly find some that you don’t know how to do when you’ve been through the above procedure for trying to answer the questions on your own.
Every week you will have a 1 hour 45 minute tutorial session. These sessions will give you a chance to discuss with the tutors about your difficulties with the questions, but, perhaps more importantly, it gives you a good opportunity to talk with your peers about the questions as well.
My advice for the best way to get a lot out of the tutorial sessions is:
- Do the tutorial problems in advance. Most sets of tutorial problems are far too long to finish during a 1 hour 45 minute tutorial session.
- Come to the tutorial session with a list of problems that you weren’t sure about, or didn’t know where to start.
- Find a group of a few other students (I would say that 4-6 is best) and discuss the questions that you found difficult.
- You will find that some of the questions which you couldn’t answer can be answered by the others in the group, and that some of the questions that the others can’t answer, you can. This is a moment where you can explain your understanding to the others, and this builds a deeper level of true knowledge than simply having been through the right steps when you solved the problem.
- Some of the problems none of you could do, so try and work through them in your group. Play around at a whiteboard or blackboard, and see if you can figure it out between you.
- If you are still stuck, ask the tutors. They should have a good knowledge of the questions and will be able to give you hints without giving you the answer outright.
- It’s a good idea to have a notebook with all your answers written out neatly, and with explanations so that when it comes to revision you will easily be able to remind yourself of what you did the first time.
- You don’t need to hand in anything during the tutorial session but you do need to sign the attendance register.
How clear is this post?