Just in time for your looming first math exams, here are some expert tips from math professors and graduate students on how to approach your work and improve your understanding of math:

**Making Connections, Moving Past Procedures.**Let's face it: a monkey can plug numbers into a calculator; that's not your goal. You want to understand what you're doing.

The
biggest difficulty is that students are often much more focused on a "plug
and chug" learning that demonstrates they can put numbers into a formula
and calculate an answer. But, hitting the right buttons on the calculator does
NOT mean that you fully understand the concept and when/how it is used. That
type of learning can be useful for quizzes, but does not prepare you for the
conceptual understanding and applying concepts that is required on exams.

First-year
Rutgers students have the advantage of taking courses with highly-esteemed
mathematicians knowledgeable about the applications of content as well as the
logic behind mathematical algorithms and procedures

*. A conceptual understanding of mathematics allows one to make sense of the WHY's and HOW's of mathematical procedures for a more interconnected knowledge base of the discipline.***Effective studying does require some advanced planning.**Many mathematics instructors will include a list of suggested and required homework problems to complete in their syllabi. Take a look at the amount and complexity of homework problems that are assigned for the course. Use this list to gauge your competency with the material PRIOR to lecture and recitations so you will be ready to pose your most pressing struggles with the material.

PRE-READING the section before attending the lecture helps
you to follow along and will either give you more confidence or will begin to
signal areas of difficulty. Next,
complete as many problems from a particular section as you can before preparing
for the next section. Keep note of the
questions that you can't answer on your own and try to look them up online or
in the solutions manual.

EXAM
REVIEW is essential to patching any holes in your understanding before moving
forward. Review the exam and all problems that you got wrong; meet with your TA
to review any errors that you don’t fully understand. The only thing worse than
losing points for a mistake on the first exam is losing points on subsequent
exams for the same mistake!

**Getting Help.**Once you’ve made a real effort, go to office hours! If you're still not getting it, you will be able to ask questions about specific problems or ideas, and get more effective help from the TA. Even if you feel confident in your approach, office hours are a terrific opportunity to hear other students’ questions and deepen your understanding of mathematical content beyond what can be addressed in an 80-minute class period. Meet with the TA, professor, and/or tutor at the campus learning center prior to an examination (and throughout the semester). Remember that tutoring is not just to learn concepts that you don't understand; it's also for really mastering material and seeing connections between concepts. It's about gaining conceptual – versus rote – knowledge.

Additionally, the mathematics department posts samples of
past examinations. Search the "CourseMaterials" section of the Math website to find review sheets and
sample exams. YouTube or Khan Academy can be used for additional support,
particularly in peer study groups. These sites may provide a new way of
"seeing" a problem or concept with which you're struggling in
understanding.

Keep in mind that math is a truly cumulative subject. With
strong understanding of how basic concepts are interconnected, you can build
higher levels and form a conceptual understanding of mathematics, but with a weak
foundation, you'll struggle in your work as you move higher.

Thanks to John Kerrigan, Alice Seneres,
and Luis Leyva for the words of wisdom!