How to Ace Your Math Class

In my college history I've taken 4 math classes and have aced them all.  I can definitely say that by no means am I a genius, I've just discovered several tools that have helped me along the way.  This semester I'm taking Calculus 2 and Statistics, as well as Calculus based Physics 1 which could also benefit from these tips.  By writing this ible I'm hoping my experience will prove beneficial to those struggling in your mathematics classes this semester.

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Step 1:

Tip 1: I've found out quickly that not all instructors are created equally.  Especially in math.  I really feel for you if you're taking a difficult math class this semester taught by a stone face, monotone teacher that puts half the class asleep in 5 minutes.  If you find you're having a hard time learning from your instructor you may need to go elsewhere. 

On youtube there are plenty of helpful math videos; however there is one author that has set himself apart from the rest.  You can find his site here, PatrickJMT.

Trust me on this one.  I've watched math videos from many authors on Youtube, many of them are just as bad as the professors that put you to sleep.  Some have an accent so thick you can't understand them.  Of all the video's I've seen PatrickJMT has the best, and is the easiest to understand.

Step 2: Rate Your Professors

Tip 2:

Since we're on the subject of Professors I thought I'd share this tip on how to select the teacher that's best for you.  This tip is more for college students than anyone else.  When you sign up for a course it's usually offered at many different times, and by many different professors.  As it goes for Mathematics courses this list can be quite long.  So how do you choose?  Do you select a time and then randomly pick a professor from that time slot?  This is a mistake.  There is such a place that offers ratings and reviews given to professors by the students who have taken their courses.  It's called RateMyProfessor.  Finding the right teacher can seriously mean the difference between an A and needing to drop the course because your professor's a...well, you get the picture.

Step 3: Software

Tip 3:

If you don't mind spending your dinero, there is some software that leads you step by step to the solution.  One that I've found most helpful is called bagatrix.  Bagatrix offers many different products for calculations and graphing.  There are three that I've found most useful, Algebra Solved, Trigonometry Solved, and Calculus Solved.  Each of these have been a lifesaver in my math classes; however I must say they take a little getting used to, there are some problems that don't compute correctly (I will explain further in the next step).

Step 4: Wolframalpha

Tip 4:

As you progress in mathematics you'll find that there are some problems that can't be done by your graphing calculator or even software such as Bagatrix.  I've run into more problems like this in Calculus 1 than I have in any other math class.  For problems like these, and for any problem for that matter I've found an amazing site called Wolframalpha.

This Site may be the greatest treasure you will find when it comes to math calculators.  I've never seen it's equal.    I discovered this site while attempting to solve this problem:

∫ (1/x)(sin x) from 1 to 12

Neither my calculator nor bagatrix could solve this problem; however with some searching I found this amazing site and to my surprise it was able to compute the answer with ease.  If you only check out 1 of my tips, I recommend checking this one out, it really is amazing!

Step 5: Shady Tip Number Five

Tip 5:

This tip might be a last resort for some of you though it can be very helpful.  For those of you who don't know this there are alternative texts for your textbooks.  They are the instructors manual which provides the answers to not only the odd problems, but the even ones as well.  Often, you can find these "annotated intructors editions" on the internet.  I found out about this when I had ordered my precalculus book.  While looking up the odd answers in the back I had noticed it had the even answers as well.  I thought this was strange since I've only ever seen answers to odd problems.  As I looked into this further I had noticed on the side cover in faint letters was written "annotated instructors edition".  Bonus!

In the future when it came time for purchasing my textbooks for other classes I made sure to always search for the instructors editions of the text.  These will come with different ISBN numbers so make sure you're getting the right one.  And what's really nice is that sometimes these special editions will be cheaper than the students version.  Another bonus!

If you can't find the hard copy of the book you're looking for you can always do a search or request for what you need via "Solutions Manual."  This is a forum dedicated to providing solution manuals for mathematics, science, and engineering courses.

Step 6: Practice Makes Perfect

Tip 6:

These steps have been enough to get me an A in all of my math courses so far.  They do not guarantee an A; however I think you'll find you will do much better than you will without them.  That said it's time for my final tip, practice makes perfect.

Throughout this ible I've provided steps that will help you through your math courses.  By utilizing these tools you will be equipped with knowledge that will aid you in achieving a better grade in some tough courses.  For me these have been a life saver.  That being said it does not mean that you should give up studying, or attempting to understand the concepts and principles of mathematics.  There will be tests that you have to take where you won't have the help of Wolframalpha, or PatrickJMT.  Here is where practice is really key.  If all you are allowed on the test is your graphing calculator, learn to do the chapter problems with your graphing calculator.  Use the tips I've outlined to help you along the way, and you'll be off to a great start to this semesters math course.

On a final note, If any of you have any more tips by all means share them.  We can all use all the help we can get.  Good luck and happy learning!

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    19 Discussions


    5 years ago

    I use It has al the answers and how to do the problems for all math textbooks, including college level texts.


    7 years ago on Step 4

    I stumbled on to your instructible very good and went to this site we home school I was amazed thanks I spent 4 hours just goofin around on it!

    thanks. im year 7 and ive got a math test thingo coming up about fractions. our teacher says its hard. he says he coud give some of the questions to the staff and not even they would get them right. the test is some sort of worldwide called the ICAS. fortunatly i get to miss out on 5th period. yay

    3 replies

    8 years ago on Step 4

    WolframAlpha probably helps me with 50% of my chemistry homework. I wish more people knew about it. Nice 'ible my good man.


    9 years ago on Step 5

    This isn't fraud unless you abuse it. Having the answers there will help boost confidence when doing the problem and prevent you from worrying about what your are doing before you have even finished. Just ensure you only look after you are done. Knowing you got it right will help you feel good about your answers and prevent you from thinking you know how to do it and come to find you didn't at test time.

    As long as you don't turn in a photocopy of the back of the book to your teacher it is fine. Also, I am sure it doesn't give you the answer step by step, just the final answer. Your teacher( or TA ) should still check that you showed your work properly.

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Step 5

    Sorry ! I understand it now . That isn't fraud . It's a very helpful reason . Thanks for your nice job !


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Just wondering, what kind of calculator are you using that couldn't solve
    ∫ (1/x)(sin x) faster than Wolfram Alpha? WA is a great tool, I used it all the time last year to confirm answers if I wasn't sure I'd done them right, it's just sometimes a pain to enter an equation in a format it understands..

    3 replies

    I attempted this on a TI-86, then on Bagatrix: Calculus Solved. Both of them couldn't calculate it, or I should say, they gave me wrong answers. I've since used WolframAlpha to double check anything I wasn't sure about and it's been amazing.

    I for one am not a big fan of the graphing calculator anyways, I may not have been using mine correctly. Seriously though, these things can be so much smaller and easier to use. In any case, WA is a life saver.

    Weird, my TI-83+ is considered a more basic calculator and it gave me the correct answer.

    WA is also handy for quick information...I often need to know sun/moon rise/set times or quick weather, and just typing "sun" or "weather" has it check your IP and local data. Quite handy.

    Yup, probably my error, It's a good thing I didn't need it! I think in all the years of math I've taken I've seriously used my graphing calculator less than 10 times. The best thing I've used it for was to find the surface area of a curve revolved around an axis. I've gotten along great using other methods for everything else.


    9 years ago on Step 1

    This is so true! I’ve been really enjoying these videos!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    "This could only be the man they call... Mr. Billion.

    ANSWER: 1,000,000,000"

    Given the conjunction of the topic and your name I expected the solution to involve blistering bolts of frap ray :)

    1 reply