Friday, January 7, 2011


Since this is my first year focusing on the Calculus curriculum, final exam time is the perfect opportunity for me to refresh my own study skills. For those who struggle with preparation for the cumulative exam each semester, perhaps seeing how someone else studies could give you some ideas of your own.

My situation is slightly different than the students’. I have 4 Calculus students in 3 different schools, 4 different teachers, and 3 different textbooks (one of which is a newer version of another with many of the same problems, some new ones, and all on different pages!). The organization needed to remember where each student was in the various schedules and what homework I had completed in preparation for tutorials for whom got the better of me and was in need of serious revamping even before I began over Winter Break to study for finals. At that time, I collected all homework and piled up assignments by student, then within each student’s pile, I put things in chronological order.

Some teachers had flitted around the text, while others had followed the order given in the book, so when one student was working on Inverse Trig differentiation, another was working on Related Rates. My solution for organizing was to make 4 lines of work (one for each student), assembled by TOPIC. And that gave me the idea to make my own workbook with notes relating to topic and separated with tabs so I could access my backup materials as needed.

You already know I expect you to keep all class notes, homework assignments, tests and quizzes (from the first day of the semester until the day you retire to a nursing home). If you’ve been following my suggestions, this material is already organized by chapter or unit according to the chronological order established by your teacher.

That’s a lot of paper and probably difficult to use as reference. I suggest you acquire either the “Stickies index tabs” (mine are the Staples brand but I think 3M has a version also) or actual binder tab sheets. Mark the tabs according to the topics you’ve studied and separate your work by topic. When you come across a final review question that relates to the Mean Value Theorem, for example, you can easily find your past work on that subject.

Here’s a list of the topics in my newly organized, personal reference binder:

RULES OF DIFFERENTIATION (this is my universal sheet with all of the examples including derivatives of Trig functions, e, and all that sum, difference, quotient, chain rule stuff in one location. Not every text provides the handy list on the book cover, so I have my own to use as reference if I forget a rule or just want to verify my work.)
RELATED RATES (by far the most voluminous section complete with examples from the internet. I defy any teacher to find a problem I have not researched and copied the algorithm for solution.)

Finals are fast approaching. You may already have your Final Review Packet. I’m thankful to have the organizing completed before trying to work on 4 entirely different sets of problems from 4 uniquely disparate teachers!! Your study plan will surely be less complicated than mine, so take heart in knowing that STUDYING SMARTER, NOT JUST HARDER has many positive rewards.

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