Achieving Success in a College Math/Science Course

success in college math


Make sure your basic math skills are sharp

Know, confidently, how to: 

• add, subtract, multiply, and divide basic numbers without a calculator

• estimate and check for reasonableness

• work with fractions, decimals, and signed numbers

• calculate with and convert to/from scientific notation 

• pull the pertinent information out of a word problem

Know the basic geometry formulas for perimeter, area, and volume

Prepare your class schedule to boost success

Take your math/science course at a time that coincides with your most alert time of day

Pack the remainder of your schedule with courses that are less demanding because you will be spending many hours out of class completing homework

Remember that online classes require a great deal of self-discipline and they are no less challenging than on-campus courses

Working and attending college

Read the course syllabus carefully

Know your instructor’s name, office location, and contact information

Know the expectations, procedures, policies, point values, and grading scale

Acquire all required and necessary materials

• Textbook and solutions manual

• Course software

• Calculator

Record exam dates and important due dates in your planner

Overhaul your attitude and self-talk

Your past experiences do not predetermine future experiences

Quit saying that you have always been bad at math; start saying that you are a capable student who can, with effort, get through this course.

You do not have to “love” math or science to succeed.

Appreciate the value of math and science in the “real world” and the importance of them in an advanced society

Be a Model Student

In Class

Attend every class; do not miss unless an emergency arises

Be on time (early is even better) and stay the entire class period

Sit in a seat that allows you to focus solely on the material being presented

Turn off your cellphone, laptop, or any other distracting device

Come prepared for class—have all materials and completed assignments

Be an active participant: Think! Question! Write! Interact!

Take meticulous, legible notes; write more than what is written on the board—write the explanations given by the instructor

Ask questions—don’t leave class until your questions are addressed

Treat your instructor and fellow classmates with utmost respect.

Completing Homework

Do homework on campus (away from all distractions); students study best in an academic environment.

Build homework time into your daily schedule.

Do some of the homework as soon after the lecture as possible to reinforce what you learned in class. Complete the homework before the next class.

Before you attempt your math problems, it is important that you first review the important portions of your notes.

Do all of the homework; do not skip any of it

Read the instructions. Read carefully and understand what you are being asked to do.

Do homework on paper (not in your notebook). Lay your notes open in front of you for reference as you are completing your assignment.

Get help with those problems of which you are unsure; go see your instructor during his/her scheduled office hours, use a tutoring center, or get together with a fellow classmate

Be an active learner when studying

Rewrite and recite key terms and their definitions

Draw diagrams

Answer review questions at the end of a chapter

Explain to another person any concepts, processes, explanations, etc. If you can’t explain it, you do not know it.

Create your own study aids — formula cards, terminology sheets, summary sheets, compare and contrast charts, diagrams, etc. Example: print off a copy of the periodic table and highlight labels, mark trends, and denote important features used in class  

Stay organized. Label homework with date, section title, and page numbers. Use white space to separate concepts.

Ongoing Review — do a ten-minute review of past material each time you sit down to study

Persevere! Math and Science courses can be challenging, but do not give up!

Test taking strategies


Take advantage of all the assistance available to you:

Textbook features

• Glossary

• Chapter summaries

• Reference pages

• Formula pages

Available resources on campus — tutoring center, writing lab, computer labs, library, instructor office hours, counselors and advisors, career center, etc.

Online resources

Outside books, workbooks, commercial flashcards and study tools

Study groups