How to Do Your Homework
Doing your homework can be frustrating or rewarding. Most students jump right
into their homework, become frustrated and stop studying. These students usually
go directly to the math problems and start working them without any preparation.
When they get stuck on one problem, they flip to the back of the text for the
answer. Then, they either try to work the problem backward, to understand the
problem steps, or they just copy down the answer.
Other students go to the
solution guide and just copy the steps. After getting stuck several
times, these students will inevitably quit doing their homework assignment.
Their homework becomes a frustrating experience, and they may even quit doing
their math homework altogether.
To improve your homework success and learning, refer to the following 10 steps.
10 Steps to Doing Your Homework
Step 1  Review the textbook material that relates to the homework A proper
review will increase the chances of successfully completing your homework. If
you get stuck on a problem, you will have a better chance of remembering the
location of similar problems. If you do not review prior to doing your homework,
you could get stuck and not know where to find help in the textbook.
Remember: To be successful in learning the material and in completing homework
assignments, you must first review your textbook.
Step 2  Review your lecture notes that relate to the homework. If you could not
understand the explanation of the textbook on how to complete the homework
assignment, then review your notes.
Remember: Reviewing your notes will give you a better idea about how to complete
your homework assignment.
Step 3  Do your homework as neatly as possible. Doing your homework neatly has
several benefits. When approaching your instructor about problems with your
homework, he or she will be able to understand your previous attempts to solve
the problem. The instructor will easily locate the mistakes and show you how to
correct the steps without having to decipher your handwriting. Another benefit
is that, when you review for midterm or final exams, you can quickly relearn the
homework material without having to decipher your own writing.
Remember: Neatly
prepared homework can help you now and in the future.
Step 4  When doing your homework, write down every step of the problem. Even if
you can do the step in your head, write it down anyway. This will increase the
amount of homework time, but you are over learning how to solve problems, which
improves your memory. Doing every step is an easy way to memorize and understand
the material. Another advantage is that when you rework the problems you did
wrong, it is easy to review each step to find the mistake.
Remember: In the long
run, doing every step of the homework will save you time and frustration.
Step 5  Understand the reasons for each problem step and check your answers. Do
not get into the bad habit of memorizing how to do problems without knowing the
reasons for each step. Many students are smart enough to memorize procedures
required to complete a set of homework problems. However, when similar homework
problems are presented on a test, the student cannot solve the problems. To
avoid this dilemma, keep reminding yourself about the rules, laws, or properties
used to solve problems.
Example: Problem: 2(a + 5) = 0. What property allows you to change the equation
to 2a + 10 = 0? Answer: The distributive property.
Once you know the correct reason for going from one step to another in solving a
math problem, you can answer any problem requiring that property. Students who
simply memorize how to do problems instead of understanding the reasons for
correctly working the steps will eventually fail their math course.
How to Check Your Answers
Checking your homework answers should be part of your homework duties. Checking
your answers can improve your learning and help you prepare for tests.
Check the answers of the problems for which you do not have the solutions. This
may be the evennumbered or oddnumbered problems or the problems not answered
in the solutions manual.
First, check your answer by estimating the correct answer.
Example: If you are multiplying 2.234 by 5.102 the answer should by a little
over 10. Remember that 2 times 5 is 10.
You can also check your answers by substituting the answer back into the
equation or doing the opposite function required to answer the question. The
more answers you check, the faster you will become. This is very important
because increasing your answer checking speed can help you catch more careless
errors on future tests.
Step 6  If you do not understand how to do a problem refer to the following
points.
Point 1 Review the textbook material that relates to the problem.
Point 2  Review the lecture notes that relate to the problem.
Point 3  Review any similar problems, diagrams, examples or rules that explain
the misunderstood material.
Point 4  Refer to another math textbook, solutions guide, math computer program
software or video tape to obtain a better understanding of the material.
Point 5  Call your study buddy
Point 6  Skip the problem and contact your tutor or math instructor as soon as
possible for help.
Step 7  Always finish your homework by successfully completing problems. Even
if you get stuck, go back and successfully complete previous problems before
quitting. You want to end your homework assignment with feelings of success.
Step 8  After finishing your homework assignment, recall to yourself or write
down the most important learned concepts. Recalling this information will
increase your ability to learn these new concepts.
Step 9  Make up note cards containing hardtoremember problems or concepts.
Note cards are an excellent way to review material for a test.
Step 10  Getting behind in math homework is academic suicide. Math is a
sequential learning process. If you get behind, it is difficult to catch up
because each topic builds on the next. It would be like going to Spanish class
without learning the last set of vocabulary words. The teacher would be talking
to you using the new vocabulary, but you would not understand what was being
said.
Reference:
Paul D. Nolting, Ph.D., Winning at Math, 1997
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