Friday 21 October 2016

Why maths counts: Ten ways to make maths add up in college

Eabhnat Ní Fhloinn

Published 22/08/2016 | 06:00

Eabhnat Ní Fhloinn in the Maths Learning Centre in DCU
Eabhnat Ní Fhloinn in the Maths Learning Centre in DCU

Mathematics is a critical subject in disciplines as diverse as business, computing, engineering, and science. Studying mathematics improves your analytical abilities, problem-solving skills and logical thinking, but many find mathematics intimidating. Regardless of prior background, you can increase your chances of success in mathematics if you:

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1 Attend Lectures: If you skip lectures, you do not know what has been covered. If you are struggling to understand the material, skipping lectures only avoids the problem!

2 Engage with tutorials: Tutorials consist of smaller groups than lectures, and involve working through questions. Attempt the questions beforehand; this is the best way to know what sections need clarification.

3 Submit assignments: Make your best attempt at each assignment and hand it up on time. The feedback you get on any mistakes helps you to learn so you can work on mastering the necessary skills.

4 Use Mathematics support: If you are struggling with mathematics, enquire about mathematics support available in your institution. The majority of colleges now have some form of free support available, usually as drop-in sessions or workshops, where you can ask tutors for one-to-one help with any topic you find difficult. In DCU, support is available in the Maths Learning Centre which is conveniently situated in a purpose-designed room in the Library.

5 Speak to your lecturer/tutor: Rest assured you will not be the first - or last - student to struggle with their module. Lecturers may suggest extra resources for certain topics or how best to approach questions.

6 Form a study group: It is really helpful to work with other people from your class, and by forming a study group early, you can keep each other on track. It is a good way to cement friendships and explore how well you understand topics by trying to teach each other different aspects of the module.

7 Work on core skills and accuracy: If you have yet to master a mathematical skill, work on it separately. Strive for accuracy when writing mathematics. There are many free online resources available where you can practice until you are competent.

8 Stay up-to-date: Organise your notes; be aware of assignment deadlines; if you miss an occasional lecture, photocopy notes from someone the next day.

9 Know your library: It is stocked with a wide range of textbooks, as well as providing a quiet place to study. It can be helpful to look at a number of books on a topic to see which explanation is best for you.

10 Remember that it is normal to struggle with mathematics: This is how all great advances are made! Mathematicians often spend years working on the same problem. The important thing is to persist, even when it seems difficult - because that is how you achieve full understanding.

Dr Eabhnat Ní Fhloinn, Director of the Maths Learning Centre, Dublin City University

Irish Independent

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