This is the first in a series of posts where I will be putting up the sage words of advice of former MAM1000W. Often, these students struggled their way through the course, before making a breakthrough in their study methods. I hope that maybe it will be easier to listen to students who have been through the struggle, than the advice of lecturers who seem to know it all (though I promise you, we do not!).
Here is the first:
As an Actuarial Science student I was aiming for 70% last year. I clearly remember that at orientation I asked some of the older ActSci students at orientation what they had done when they scored below what they needed to. I was so shocked, and a little scared when the group I asked said they never had. I wasn’t worries at this stage though because I thought I’d done well at maths at school, and I’d do well at maths here.
Then the Decant test came, and I didn’t get the 70 I needed, but I got a mark in the sixties which wasn’t too far away. I still wasn’t worried. I told myself that it was because I hadn’t done AP Maths. I kept working the way I had. I studied proof after proof, fought with past papers on my own and copied of the board at every lecture. To my surprise though, despite working really hard, my next test was a 50 percent. I worked harder and harder, and my marks stayed where they were, and below where I needed them to be.
Very late in the year, before test 5, I changed my entire approach to MAM1000. I stopped obsessing over past papers and proofs and I started redoing Tutorials, with others, until I understood the work. I started revising the work after the lecture instead of before the test. We’d been told to do this all along, but for some I reason I thought “I’ve always learn maths by doing past papers and studying why should I change that for this course, I’ll just have to work harder.” It was difficult to face the fact that my old methods weren’t working, even though we heard from all sides that they wouldn’t. I guess I was reluctant to change my methods because I thought that if my way of understanding maths didn’t work maybe I didn’t have any understanding of maths at all. This is such a silly trap to fall into though, and once I finally changed my approach it just came together. I started understanding the work, and the proofs came easier to me, and once I’d worked through the Tutorials thoroughly, the past papers seemed manageable.
After getting below 55% for two tests, and above 70 for only one test, I did well enough in the exam to get a first for the course.
I just really want to share with this year’s group that they should take the advice they get from lecturer’s seriously, and not try to replicate the way they used to study at school.
Don’t let bad marks discourage you, and don’t be afraid to change the way you approach the course, and the way you approach maths. If you aren’t doing well despite working hard, you probably need to work differently, not harder.