*Returning to college as an adult can certainly be overwhelming!*

*Being back in a classroom will force you to use some mental “muscles” that you might not have used in a long time. You’ll also need to develop some other skills that might not have even existed when you were in school!*

*Over the next several days, this will be a series of Top Success Skills for Non-Traditional students.*

Math | Reading | Writing | Critical Thinking | Computers | Research

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**MATH SKILLS**

Most degree programs include at least one math course as a core requirement. As a beginning student, you will probably need to take a math placement exam before enrolling. Generally, a placement test will evaluate your current skills, and determine which level math class you should start in.

It’s possible you may need to take one or more lower-level math courses before taking the course required for your program. Don’t feel discouraged or insulted; this will help you in the long run. Math skills build upon each other; a solid foundation will help you succeed at higher levels.

**Relax. **

Math Anxiety is a very real issue for many adults returning to college. Your younger classmates may be only a year or two out of high school, and much of their math skills will be fresher. Don’t let the Whiz Kids intimidate you. As mentioned above, you will be placed in a course that matches your current skills. Trust that they wouldn’t* intentionally* put you in over your head.

**Ask questions.**

If you don’t understand what your math professor is saying, JUST ASK! Chances are, half a dozen other people in the room are too shy to ask the very same question. Nine times out of ten, you’ll hear them murmur gratefully when you ask the professor for clarity.

**Attend every class!**

Things happen, of course, but make the effort to stay current on work. Math skills build on what you’ve already learned. It’s so important to stay on top of things. Establish contact with with one or two classmates who can fill you in on anything you might miss. Even better, enlist a classmate as a study buddy.

**Do your homework!**

You don’t learn math just by absorbing what the professor is saying in class, or even by reading the textbook. It takes practice. You need to work out problems on paper until you understand the process. Stay on top of your assignments. It’s not just busy work (usually!)– it’s valuable practice.

When you’re done with your homework, go back and do them again. You’re learning a process. Practice, practice, practice! College courses are usually just two days a week. Don’t lost what you’ve learned- practice some more in between classes!

When solving a math problem, I’ve found you need to approach it logically:

**1. What information is unknown?**

In other words, what is the problem asking for? What do you need to find? This is the most important part. You have to get straight to the heart of the problem first.

**2. What information is given?**

The nice thing about math problems is, everything you need to solve it is right there.

If it helps to visualize, draw a little picture of the problem. If you’re a visual learner, a quick diagram may be just what your brain needs to understand the problem better.

**3. What’s the relationship between what’s given and what’s unknown?**

How is one related to the other? When you think about it from that point of view, you’re forced to look for the missing link between the two. What connects the known and the unknown? You’ll have to decide whether the missing link is a formula or a particular method… and then solve it.

Whenever your professor (or the textbook) presents a formula or method, it’s important! Write down the formula, along with an example of a problem (with the solution) which uses that particular formula. You will eventually get to know which formula/method to use when you need to find a particular answer. Learning to make those connections– see those relationships– really helps.

**Organization**

Math notes can be messy and confusing. Take notes during class, but plan to re-do them later. A three-ring binder with loose-leaf notebook paper is a great idea for math class. You can move, insert, and delete pages easily.

Those formula cheat sheets (above) are best done when you have time to write them out neatly. Take time after each class to carefully write out a step-by-step solution of each type of problem. Include the actual wording of the problem, so you have the entire context right there. Draw a picture to illustrate the problem. These pages will help you study!

**Seek Help!**

If your professor can’t explain it to you well enough, you can get help outside the classroom. Most colleges offer free tutoring sessions; if you need it, by all means take advantage of this excellent free resource!

Somehow, I managed to get an A in College Algebra and an A- in Statistics this past year. Believe me– if I can do that, anyone can!

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Helpful Math Links:

Tips for success in math class

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**Academic Success Skills for Non-Traditional Students:**

5. Computer Skills

6. Research Skills

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on August 8, 2008 at 6:41 pm |Academic success skills for non-traditional students: writing « Memoirs of a Non-traditional Student[…] 1. Math Skills […]

on August 8, 2008 at 6:42 pm |Academic Success Skills for Non-Traditional Students: Reading « Memoirs of a Non-traditional Student[…] 1. Math Skills […]

on August 12, 2008 at 12:10 pm |Academic Success Skills for Non-Traditional Students: Critical Thinking « Memoirs of a Non-traditional Student[…] 1. Math […]