Often I’m asked the question about what makes a successful student. Over my years of teaching, I’ve thought one thing or read another… here are my thoughts compiled into a top-five list:
First, to be successful in the math classroom, a student needs a positive attitude. I don’t know how many students walk in with their mind set they cannot be successful. They think, “Math is too hard,” “I don’t really need this,” “I’m not good with math,” “My parents weren’t good at this, so I won’t be either…” I think about 75% of math in high school is having the right attitude. Trust your teacher: even though you haven’t been successful in the past, trust that they have broken down the material into such a bite-sized piece that you can take in, digest, and enjoy what is happening today.
Second, come prepared to learn. Yes, bring necessary materials, but maybe more importantly, leave the drama of whatever he-said-she-said at the door. Sure schooling is about socialization and learning about yourself, your strengths, weaknesses, etc., but school is primarily about learning. Come in, get your thinking cap on, and be ready to learn.
Thirdly, when you don’t understand something, ask. Most of your teachers are experts at what they are teaching you. They have taught the material you are seeing for the first time maybe upwards of 50 or 100 times. They KNOW it. With a new group of students, it takes a little while for a teacher to figure out what you’ve been exposed to in the past. If there’s some step, the teacher went to fast on, politely get their attention and ask them about it. Here’s a secret — most the time when you ask a question, two or three other people were also wondering the same thing. During the lesson, right when the concept is NEW is the best time to ask. The next best time might be directly after the lesson. With your notes in hand, be ready to ask your question. Next, after class works well. I’d also suggest for your consideration after school or before school. Let me tell you the worst time to ask a question: right before the homework is graded. Generally speaking, homework is to assess what you have learned. If it is the 11th hour and you still haven’t learned the material, the minute before grading is not an appropriate time to pick everything up. Not to say that you shouldn’t learn it sometime… after you get your homework back, make sure to talk to SOMEONE (a peer, classmate, tutor, teacher, parent) to figure out what you did wrong on anything you missed. If you missed it, make sure to adjust your thinking so you understand the right method/process before any more quizzes or tests. ASK!
Fourthly, stay organized. Make sure you know deadlines, and what the specific expectations of your teacher are. Don’t assume you know what they want — this can really set you (and your grade) off in the wrong direction.
Fifthly, know that what you do TODAY has an impact on tomorrow — don’t forget that you are the master of your own grade. If you want a good grade at the end of the semester, make the right decisions to get yourself there today… don’t wait until there is a week or so left in the semester. This might include, asking more questions in class, seeking a tutor outside of class, reviewing material on a daily basis instead of just the night before or class before a test, rewriting your notes, working extra problems, making flashcards or key topics, correcting any homework errors, etc. Do what’s right now!
With these ideas in mind, anyone can be successful in any class. Have a great year!