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Archive for October, 2009

How important is practice in doing well in Math?

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

Math teachers often tell their students that the more they practice, the better they can perform. Nothing could be more true than that statement. But to practice, you should first know how to tackle math problems. So, let’s start at the very beginning.

Clarity – Students should attempt to bring in clarity into their math work to obtain top grades. When their teachers solve or explain math problems in class, they should copy it down legibly and properly. One should try not to use abbreviations that could be confusing later. The use of highlighters and colored pencils (to highlight the important portions) can be very effective. A good formof practice is to try the same problems back home and verify the method used as well as the answers.

Questions – Don’t take questions back home. Discuss these with the teacher or with other students who have clearly understood the concept and get the questions answered comprehensively. Then, attempt some similar questions yourself and get the concept crystal clear. This too, is a form of practice.

Model tests – Take model tests. These are available online or in other books. It is a good idea to buy books by other authors dealing with the same topics and solve the problems. This will widen the understanding of the concept and give greater confidence to the students. This form of practice can do wonders to the students’ score.

Math is a subject where students can, with practice, get a very high grade and thus improve their overall grade point average. Therefore, it is important for students to do well in math. However, as with athletes who get rusty when they do not practice for a period of time, students lose their touch if they do not practice math problems. And such practice should always be done on a piece of paper, not just by glancing at problems in a book or an answer sheet.

Math is all about practice.

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How not to panic during a math test

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

This is easier said than done. Most students, except those gifted with a special love for math, perspire at the thought of taking a math test. Actually, this panic is what begets more panic. If students learn to treat math just like other subjects, there will be no problem.

Students should however, begin the process of taking a math test by preparing properly and systematically for it. The biggest mistake students do while preparing for math tests is to leave questions unanswered. Every question needs to be answered, the concept understood and exercises done to attain clarity and confidence.

While learning math formulae or a particularly difficult problem, look at the page closely, close your eyes and try to save a photographic copy of the page in your mind. At first, it may not work. After a couple of tries, it works. Try recollecting that page and its contents a few hours later. 

Ok, now we are at the math test venue. Take a few deep breaths, close your eyes and think of all the exercises you have done. Well, you have spent a lot of time preparing and you rightfully deserve good marks. So, here goes.

Take a look at the question paper. Start with the easiest ones. Do the questions at a reasonably fast clip. Once the easiest questions are answered, your confidence level will rise. Now attempt the harder ones. If the questions are from those portions which you have tried to learn through the photographic memory route, close your eyes and think back to the page. Things will fall into place. Your adrenalin will flow. You will be able to attempt the rest of the questions.

Never look around the exam hall and look for distressed faces. This will hurt your confidence. Concentrate on your work. Leave aside what you cannot readily do. Attempt such questions only if you have time.

Math tests are not impossible, and if you are well prepared there’s no reason to worry.

What to Eat Before a Test

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

Test – the word itself sends chills down the spine of many a student, taking away their appetite and desire to sleep. There’s a scramble to learn as much as possible in the shortest possible time. There’s no time to take a bite or get a wink of sleep. But that’s not good practice. Students need to eat healthily before a test.

Typically, before taking tests conducted in the morning, students should consume protein-rich foods such as eggs, nuts, yogurt and cottage cheese for breakfast. Food such as spicy or fried food should be avoided as these tend to make the stomach heavy and could cause some discomfort. High school students sometimes take a cup of coffee to perk them up and keep sleep away. Of course, this depends on parental permission.

Tests that are conducted in the afternoons or evenings are more difficult to take. This is because the body generally seeks some rest in the afternoon. Therefore, it is important that before taking tests held in the afternoon or evenings, students should eat a balanced meal, including protein and fruits, such as bananas, apples, oranges. You could also keep healthy snacks like protein bars with you to nibble on between exams. Avoid spicy dishes, yogurt (especially the sour ones), rice, pizzas and burgers, since these create heaviness in the stomach and can adversely affect your attention span, alertness, and consequently performance levels.

Before and during the exam, drink enough water to keep hydrated, as dehydration may cause you to lose focus or feel tired during the test.

Finally, you may want to consider having a cup of yoghurt or fruit, both of which contain serotonin, on the night before the test. Serotonin relaxes the mind and can help you fall asleep.

How to balance academics and other activities

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

Balancing academics with other daily activities is no mean task – both for students and their parents. Typically, every student would have a special liking for some other activity/activities besides studies. These could be rewarding activities such as fine arts, sports, adventure, reading or traveling, among others; or wasteful activities such as excessive watching of movies, chatting and daydreaming. While the latter needs to be curtailed, the former should be nurtured in healthy combination with education.

Let us take the example of a student who is a tennis player. In this case, the student along with the parents should gauge his or her fundamental strengths in the sport and evaluate the time that should ideally be set aside for it. Suppose the student wishes to pursue the sport only for maintaining good health and social acceptance, there is no need to spend too much time or money on the sport. However, if the student genuinely possesses the potential to grow into a tennis player, then more time and money could be allocated for pursuing the sport.

This course of action can be followed in the case of all rewarding activities.

However, wasteful activities too, form part of the student’s life. Most such activities are aimed at relaxing or gaining social acceptance. Sure, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Therefore, relaxation is necessary for the body to regain its bearings. However, it should be within limits. For an ideal student, there should be no need for anyone to remind him or her of the need to get back to his or her studies.

Eating, socializing, pursuing religious beliefs, traveling and attending to the needs of the elderly and sick in the family or even outside are all part of a typical student’s usual life. The trick is to pursue all these, but yet remain focused on studies in order to enjoy a bright future.

Study Tips – Good Study Habits

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

There are no short-cuts to attaining excellence in education. Yet, doing well in education need not turn into a daunting task for students. All it requires is following a structured regime, which will make the tasks involved simple and exciting.

Set aside a time and place for studies. This will provide continuity and context to studies.

Studies for the year should be started at the very beginning of the academic year. All that is done is class should be learned and revised on a daily basis. This will build up a sound foundation for each subject as the year progresses.

Where students face difficulties, they should at once seek help. It should not be left for a future date as that could shake the foundation of knowledge in the subject.

Not all subjects would be easy for everyone. Thus, for students who find Science daunting, they should spend more ‘quality time’ with the subject. This means, that students should take help from parents, elder siblings or take tuition in the subject.

Judge your own strengths and performance – and fairly. Do not underestimate or overestimate your capabilities in any subject.

Concentrate hard during studies. Cut out all distractions. Look for the main thoughts or the theme of the chapter. After studying a chapter, do the questions at the end of it. Form your own questions, and then answer them. Get it checked by the teacher or your elders.

Eat healthy during the years of education and especially during exam times. Yet, do not overeat. It creates lethargy and induces unnecessary sleep.

Sleep for at least 7 to 8 hours a day. Take regular baths, play regularly and stay away from memory enhancing drugs. Take holidays too, at regular intervals.

Avoid studying late nights during exam time. If possible, wake up early and study since at that time one’s mind is fresh and grasping power strong.

Above all, remain focused. Aim high, plan well to reach the goal and study consistently. All goals are achievable.

Why do so many Asian students do well in Math and Science

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

Excellence in Math and Science has helped many Asian students reach the best of universities in the West. And from there they have moved on to take up top positions in leading global companies. Many theories have been floated about the uncanny strength of the Asian students in the tricky educational streams of Math and Science – ranging from the desire to escape from the cycle of poverty so rampant in many of the Asian economies, to hereditary strengths in numerical ability.

One interesting observation is that learning the basis of Math, which is Math tables, is so much easier in some of the Asian languages than in English. The musical manner in which Math tables are learned by rote in Hindi,  for example, makes recollection easier than in English. For instance, “2 times 2 equals 4” (this involves five words) while in Hindi it is “Do duni chaar” (are just three words) and so much easier to utter phonetically.

According to studies, the names attributed to Math numbers in several Asian languages are easier to remember than those in English.

Another major factor is parental attention. A large number of families in Asia have homemaker mothers, who are educated, in some cases well educated. They spend considerable time with their children for their studies. Fathers too, chip in when needed. 

Interestingly, in Asian countries Math as a subject in school is taught at least in two periods during the day. This increases the amount of time spent on the subject, which naturally helps hone skills.

And of course, there is the perseverance and hard work of individuals, which make the task of learning Math and Science easier.

How to prevent insomnia before a test

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

The very name of a test brings about fear in the minds of students, especially the ones who are not prepared for the test. There is apprehension in the mind of the student with regard to the possibility of disaster. This causes anxiety, which results in loss of sleep or insomnia. This is the most common cause of insomnia among students. Other causes include poor eating habits; consumption of caffeine, nicotine or alcohol; and lack of exercise.

So, does one need to look further to find out how to prevent insomnia before a test? The sure-fire way to enjoy sound sleep is to be absolutely sure that you are well prepared for the test. This confidence can help result in the student being able to get a good night’s sleep.

Of course, there’s always the fear of the unknown – about the variables in a test that can wreck the chances of even the best of students to score well in a test – which scares most students out of their sleep. But since there’s very little one can do to resolve this problem, there’s little use of losing sleep over it. All that the student can do is to solve as many mock tests as possible to gain confidence — and sleep whenever he or she can.

The student should continue with his or her regular food and exercise regimen even when preparing for exams. This will allow the body cycle to remain unchanged. Sleep patterns too, will remain generally unchanged in such cases.

Importantly, students shuld avoid energy enhancing drugs. Such drugs have the tendency to keep you alert for a long period of time and thus create insomnia.