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Math, Metacognition and You

by Staff
July 2, 2013

Advice from Guest Blogger, Gregory Allen
Adjunct Faculty Member at South University

One of the most important things I find that my math students need to learn is what educators call metacognition. In layman’s terms, this means understanding how you learn as well as managing and improving the process of learning.

Math AdviceAt the end of each week, review your grades. If you aren't satisfied, consider what you did during the week to learn the material and look for ways to make improvements. Here are a few good starting points for improving how you learn.

1. Talk It Out. If you have trouble understanding a passage or example from the textbook, try reading it aloud. Talking to yourself may sound strange at first, but Chi et al. (1994) showed that students who verbalized material not only learned the material better but developed a deeper understanding of it.

2. Take Notes. Students in traditional classes spend a significant amount of time taking notes. For many students, this subconsciously becomes an important part of the learning experience. Although you may not have lectures in your online classes, you can get the same effect by taking notes from the textbook. (I've personally used this technique when taking online classes.)

3. Use Supplemental Materials. Be sure that you use any supplemental materials your faculty member provides as well as the materials on the MyMathLab website. With that said, I wouldn't necessarily start there. Instead, use your textbook and note any problems or subjects that you aren't clear on. Then, go to the supplemental materials and look up those topics to get a different perspective.

4. Review Your Instructor’s Feedback. Whether it’s a quiz or any other assignment, always review your instructor’s comments and let them know if you don't understand something.

5. Recap. If you struggle through a problem but finally get to the right answer, go back and write out the correct answer from the beginning without all of the missteps and corrections. This will help you to see the clean solution without distractions.

6. Tutoring/Live Sessions. Sometimes, students benefit from hearing the problems solved by someone else. If that's true for you, try the university’s tutoring service. If you have me as an instructor, you’ll also find that I hold live weekly tutoring sessions for some of my classes. Interactive sessions, whether with a tutor or an instructor, allow you to ask questions and get immediate feedback.

Now, I'm not suggesting that anyone should do all of these things. Instead, evaluate what you're doing so far, think about which of my suggestions might benefit you and then integrate them into your weekly routine.

Source: Chi, M., de Leeuw, N., Chiu, M., & LaVancher, C. (1994). Cognitive science. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 18, 439-477.

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