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How To Read A Math Book and Understand It By Professor Marcia Tharp, Ph. D.

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Why should I read the book? A key component for success in studying math is to read the text book before you go to class or do a computer lessons. By reading the book before your class or computer lessons you can become familiar with the vocabulary and concepts. You don’t need to understand everything you read. Understanding at least a third of the material will free your mind to understand more of the material during class or a computer lesson.

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Suggestions for Reading Ahead 1. Read ahead 1 or 2 sections and put a question mark by what you don’t understand. 2. Make a vocabulary list of words that will most likely appear in the lesson. 3. When you go to class or do the computer lesson have your list of questions and vocabulary words ready. Leave space on your paper for each question or word and an answer. Pay attention! 4. You need to ask questions if you do not understand the instructor or computer explanation.

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Make friends with your book first. Look at the table of contents. Look at the chapter summary. Where are the learning objectives? Use these as a check list to make sure you are learning everything you are supposed to. Notice how and where definitions are placed. How are rules presented? Are they in a text box which is easy to read? Are there problems at the end of the chapter? Is there an answer key in the back of the book? Does the book have a companion book of worked out solutions to problems? Is there a CD that goes with the book that has videos, practice problems and explanations?

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Reading After A Lessons Is Presented Reading a math book is not like reading a novel. Much is said using very few words. So you will need to read and reread and think carefully about the symbols and words you see. It is best to read with a pencil in hand so you can work with some of the ideas on your paper. What follows are a few steps to in-depth reading and understanding what you read.

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Reading For Understanding After The Lesson-The Process Skimming Read the objectives for the chapter. Skim the chapter as a review so you see how everything fits together. Circle new words. See if you can figure out how they are connected to what you learned.

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Reading For Understanding After The Lesson-The Process continued Rereading 1. Read through a second time for details using a highlighter. Highlight what is important. Do not highlight more than 50% of the material. 2. Have paper and pencil ready to work through the examples you see. Review each step and if there is a step missing write it in the book and on your paper. This will help you later when you review. 3. Highlight the concepts you don’t know. There will be some you circled in pencil earlier that you won’t need to highlight and other new ones. 4. Take notes using the two column note method explained in our previous PowerPoint about two column notes. In the next few slides you will see examples of two column notes.

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Example Notes For Vocabulary 1.List vocabulary words in the left hand column. 2.Define these words in the right hand column. 3.Put a related example or picture in the right hand column. 4.Put a question mark by what you don’t understand. Word Definition-Example-Picture Absolute value -The distance between a number and 0 on a number line. |-3| = 3 |3|= 3 3 units

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Rereading and Vocabulary Remember to use the two column paper to study for tests. Fold one side of the paper and review the meaning of the word and then unfold it to see if you were correct. Add the words you don’t understand to a math dictionary that you keep. Your list should contain all the bold print words you don’t understand. Ask your instructor or your study buddy about the meaning. Put in the book definition and definitions in your own words. You need to know these prior to taking a test.

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Example for Recording A Process 1.Put the problem on the left hand side. 2.Write the explanation in words on the right hand side. 3.Put a question mark by anything you don’t understand. 4.Ask your instructor about it. ProblemExplanation 2(5-2) +7 =2(3)+7 =6+7 =13 Order of Operations PEMDAS 1. Do the parentheses first. 2. Do exponents. There are none. 3. Multiply or divide. 4. Add or subtract. 5. Work from left to right.

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What if you don’t understand? Reread the page and the previous page slowly. Look for pictures that explain a rule. Reread the part you don’t understand aloud. Look at your class notes or computer lesson notes. Look at another math text book. Sometimes it will have a better explanation. Figure out exactly what you don’t know and ask your instructor, a math tutor, or your study buddy about it as soon as possible.

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Review Is The Key Frequent review of your notes even 5 or 10 minutes each day for several days will increase your understanding and ability to remember the material. This way you will know the information before taking the test. Schedule review periods for notes and homework at least two weeks before a major test. Next you will need to schedule time to do the practice problems in your book. We will leave the topic of Completing Homework for our next PowerPoint presentation.

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References Winning at Math 4 th Edition, Paul Nolting, Ph. D. Academic Success Press, Florida Study Skills Workbook, Basic College Mathematics 6 th Edition, Lial, M., Salzman, S. and Hestwood, D., Addision Wesley, Boston

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