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MATH 101A / AD1-6

Linear Equations
Tips & Strategies
Word Problems

Tips & Strategies

Tips on How to Succeed in a Math Class


Get a “can do” attitude:

If you can do it in sports, music, dance, etc., you can do it in math!  Try not to let fear or negative experiences turn you off to math.


Practice a little math every day:

        It helps you build up your confidence and move your brain away from the panic button at test time.


Take advantage of your math class:

        If you are a college or high school student, realize that most colleges and universities require at least college algebra for any bachelor's degree.  Some classes, like chemistry, nursing, statistics, etc. will require some algebra skills to succeed in them.  If you are getting a bachelor's degree, then chances are you are going for a professional job. Most professional jobs require at least some math. Granted, some more than others, but nonetheless math (problem solving, numbers, etc...) is everywhere. So make sure that you embrace your math experience and make the most of it.


Get help outside the classroom:
        Go to your instructor’s office for extra help.  Go during office hours or make an appointment.


Attend class full time:

        Math is a sequential subject.  That means that what you are learning today builds on what you learned yesterday.  Even problems based on a new math concept will need some old skills to work them. 


Keep up with the homework:      

        It sounds simple but your time is limited, you have a job to go to, etc...  Think of it this way: No homework, no learning.  Homework helps you practice the applications of math concepts.  It’s like learning how to drive: the longer you practice, the better your driving skills become and the more confidence you will have on the road.  If you only read the driver’s manual, you’ll never learn to drive with confidence and skill. Try some of the unassigned problems, too, for extra practice.


Try to understand the math problems: 

        When you work homework problems, ask yourself what you are looking for and how you are going to get there.  Don’t just follow the example.  Work the problem step-by-step until you know why you are doing what you are and have arrived at the solution.  If you follow the what, how, and whys, you’ll know what to do when you see a similar problem later.


Use index cards to study tests: 
            Here’s how you do that: When studying for a test, make sure you can understand

the problems on each math concept as well as work them.  Then make the index cards with problems on them.  Mix the index cards and set the timer.  Start working the problems in each card as it is dealt to you. Hide your textbook!  This will simulate a math test taking experience. 


Ask questions in class:

        Don’t be ashamed to ask questions.  The instructor will not make fun of you.  In fact, at least one other person may have the same question.


Ask questions outside of class: 

        OK, so like most people, you don’t want to ask questions in class, OR you think of a question too late.  Then go to the instructor’s office and ask away.


Check homework assignments: 

        Make sure that when you get your graded homework back you look over what you got right as well as what you missed. 


Pay attention in class: 

        Math snowballs.  If you don’t stay alert to the instructor’s presentation, you may miss important steps to learning concepts.  Remember, today’s information sets the foundation for tomorrow’s work.


Don’t talk in class: 

        If you have questions, please ask the instructor.  The information you get from classmates may be mathematically wrong!  And if it isn’t related to math info for this class, save it for outside the classroom. 


Read the math textbook and study guide: 

        Yes, there’s a reason why we ask you to spend all that money on them.  If you look carefully, you will see that your book contains pages with great examples, explanations and definitions of terms.  Take advantage of them.



Strategy for Solving a Linear Equation

Get your variable on one side and everything else on the other using inverse operations.


Step 1: Simplify each side, if needed.


This would involve things like removing ( ), removing fractions, adding like terms, etc.  To remove ( ):  Just use the distributive property.  To remove fractions: Since fractions are another way to write division, and the inverse of divide is to multiply, you remove fractions by multiplying both sides by the LCD of all of your fractions.


Step 2: Use Add./Sub. Properties to move the variable term to one side and all other terms to the other side. 



Step 3: Use Mult./Div. Properties to remove any values that are in front of the variable.



Step 4:  Check your answer.


Strategy for Solving Word Problems

1. Read the problem until you understand it.


2. List quantities involved; then identify those that are known and those that are sought.

Alternative: Prepare a table.


3. Make a sketch if necessary.


4. Write relationships among variables in pseudocode. (Pseudocode is a mixture of English and

of mathematical symbols.)


5. Denote one unknown quantity by a letter, then express other quantities in terms of it.


6. Write an equation.


7. Solve the equation.


8. Check your answer by reference to the original problem.

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