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Strategies for Excelling in Lower-Level Mathematics Courses / Professor Zhixin Wu, Chair of the Department of Mathematics

  1. Class attendance is crucial to success in Mathematics classes of all levels, from introductory to advanced. Unlike some other subjects, Mathematics is often difficult for students to understand by just reading the textbook.

  2. It is important to do a brief review before each class and do the assigned homework problems right after class.

  3. Although the final answers -- the numbers themselves -- are important, it is even more important for you to understand the whole process and the reasoning behind the numbers.

  4. Copying the professor’s notes on the board is not enough. When you do your homework and review your notes, outline key definitions, important theorems, and properties. If possible, make a collection of the difficult problems, especially the problems you have previously gotten wrong. Summarize the strategies for these problems in your own words. This process will help you to efficiently review the material. These notes are valuable for your future study. You can quickly refresh your understanding of key ideas when you need them later on.

  5. The more you practice, the better. Do not repeat your mistakes. Step 4 will help.

  6. Develop your problem solving and critical thinking skills in lower-level classes so that you will have a solid math background for upper-level classes.

  7. Don’t hesitate to ask questions! Go to your professors’ office hours; visit Math Tutors, Q Tutors, and STEM Guides. Remember, each section of the class and chapter of the textbook builds on what has come before. If you understand one chapter, you’ll be well-prepared to understand the chapter that follows -- and you’ll be able to grasp the complex new material that lies ahead.


Professor Zhixin Wu, Ph.D, ASA & MAAA
Summarized by Angela Xinye Yang '21
February 2020