Study Skills

"I found the Math and English sections very helpful because I know I struggle in these classes sometimes and the little study tips helped.”  —Garren B., Participant of Scholar Ready study skills workshop


I'm afraid of asking a dumb question... Procrastination is productive
A+ Study skills Word problems = Verbal opportunities

Math is hard for a Black person like me


Help me with my teenager and math!
Q: Ms. Jennifer, I'm starting high school next week and I am very nervous. I hate asking my teachers questions in class. Who wants to sound dumb in front of everyone? In middle school, when I got lost, I stayed lost because I'm sensitive about what others think. How can I stay on top of my grades without looking silly? — Shy scholar
Well, I won't tell you, "There are no dumb questions." You're starting at a new school with new people and new drama. I get it. I've been through high school. Here's what you can do in spite of the fear of looking uncool:

1.  Take care of your health so that you can attend every class.

2.  Avoid distractions and sit in the front of the class, if possible.
3.  As you take notes in class, you should be writing questions and identifying stuff that you don't understand.
4.  Read your textbook.
5.  Go to your teacher with these notes before or after school.
Hopefully, you'll become more confident. Who knows? You might start raising your hand and risk asking a "dumb" question.

Positive Procrastination

Back away from the books. Put off completing that scholarship application. Forget about any upcoming test. I know this sounds counterintuitive, but you need to relax to succeed and to avoid burnout. You work hard, so play hard. Schedule one hour a day just for you. Here are some ideas:

1. Dancing to Beyonce's songs (when no one is watching) is one of my favorite ways to blow off steam.

2. Watch a favorite TV show. One of my clients at the High School for Performing and Visual Arts watches CSI to forget about school pressures.

3.  Another client juggles a three ring circus of full-time employment, part-time college coursework, and family obligations. She quilts blankets in her spare time.
4. Pray or meditate.
A+ Study skills

Study skills for all ages, grades, and academic pursuits:

1. Strive for perfect attendance.
2. If you miss class, go to your teacher or professor for notes.
3. Study with people who have good grades.
4. Study in groups if you are struggling. Also, see #3.
5. Do you have to memorize any concepts? Make your own flash cards. 
6. Take any research papers or essays to your teacher (or another writing pro) at least 1 week before the deadline for feedback. The more complete your paper, the better advice you will get for improvement.
7. Study a little everyday; you'll be more comfortable with the subject.
8. Stop calculating, "All I gotta get to pass this class is a __________." The time you spend doing this, you could be studying.

9. Even when you don't have homework, study something.


Verbal Opportunities

Answer verbal opportunities, also known as word problems, with confidence. First, ask yourself 2 questions:

* What am I looking for?

* What information does the verbal opportunity give me?

Then, get to work with these 3 steps:
* Make a plan to find what I am looking for.
* Carry out the plan.
* Check to see whether the answer makes sense.
Notice how none of these steps requires a calculator. So often, when my clients are confronted with a word problem, the first thing they do is start punching keys on the calculator. I don't care if its the latest edition of the TI (Texas Instruments) graphing calculator. Use your mind - a wonderful computer. 

Q: The SAT Math section is so hard. I'm a senior, and I have to do well on the test. If I wereWhite, I would be so smart. This test has so many word problems and is biased against Blacks. What can I do to pass the test? — Stumped by the SAT
Using your race as an excuse is perfect if you want to stay in high school and hide from the real world. Guess what? Mom and Dad (who have been Black their entire lives) are not having it. They want you to get that diploma and be self-reliant. And I suspect that you do, too. Here's how to move forward in your SAT studies:
1) Set a goal. Determine that most (if not all) of your answers will be correct. Usually, people who say "I just want to pass" fail the test by one or two questions.
2) Review Algebra I & Algebra II. Functions, equations, graphing, and solving = over 50% of your score.
3) Take practice tests. Visit the College board for practice exams.

March Madness 


Q: Ms. Jennifer, my son, Chris*, is doing well in all of his classes except math. This year, he is taking Algebra II and earning borderline passing grades. When my husband or I try to help him with his homework, Chris complains, "Mom, Dad, that's not how the teacher does it." According to Chris, Mom and Dad (who both have college degrees) don't know anything. I know Algebra hasn't changed that much in the past 20 years.
In elementary school and middle school, Chris earned A's. Those A's slid to C's in Algebra I and Geometry during Chris's freshman and sophomore years. I keep telling him that getting by isn't good enough for him to succeed. How can he get out of this math slump? — W. McGowan
A: Rest assured, you are not alone. In my experience with clients, it is nearly impossible for a parent to tutor their teenage child in math. Of course, the math is the same, but your son is different. Now that he is an adolescent, he is gradually realizing that you don't have a clue about anything. Instead of you and your husband fighting with Chris about math, ask his teacher or another outsider to help him study.

Because his struggles began with Algebra, I strongly suggest that he reviews the following:

  • Solving equations (Solve for x, when 6 +x = -12)
  • Combining like terms (2x + y is not 3xy)
  • Adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing positive and negative numbers WITHOUT A CALCULATOR.

Before Chris can learn any shortcuts, he must master the fundamentals. Encourage him to be persistent in his studies, and he will fulfill his potential.

*Names are changed to protect the clients' privacy.



Last modified: Wednesday, 22 March 2017, 2:01 PM