Last week I was in Denver for a 1-day math conference and one of the speakers was Paul Nolting (who has written several books about math study skills).
One of the resources that he passed along to us was an online Math Study Skills Evaluation. Paul suggested that rather than discussing a bad test during office hours, you have the students take the survey and bring the printout with them for discussion during office hours.
Although the survey printout refers to specific pages in Paul’s book, Winning at Math, it also tells the students a bit about why this particular behavior might be causing problems. Here is an example of the results:
Especially for those of us that teach developmental math courses (although good for any student that is struggling), this survey would be a great activity to do right after the first exam. Our students often focus on not being “smart enough” to do math, and this should bring the focus to the student not having the appropriate study skills.
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