Top 5 Pitfalls to Watch Out for When Studying

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studytipsfromfaye_LargeWideWe so often here tons of tips and tricks that are supposed to make you study better, and help you ace those finals. However, there are a lot of common mistakes students make that don’t get addressed. With exam season around the corner, we’ve listed the top 5 pitfalls you might be the victim of when studying. By become more aware of these mistakes, you can take action to correct them, and (in the words of our fave rapper Kanye) make you study harder, better faster and stronger!

  1. Memorizing

One of the biggest issues students have is relying on memorization of facts or formulas, rather than actually understanding the information they’ve been given. This becomes a problem especially in “thinking” and “understanding” (lol maybe??) questions, since you’re less likely to be able to apply information to questions you haven’t seen before if you’re just memorizing. Use study strategies, like saying things aloud in your own words, to make sure you’re actually understanding the bigger concepts!

  1. Studying Chronologically

Although it might be tempting to want to study in the same order that you learned the material, it’s something to try and avoid doing. Focus on the most important information, and try and pick up on any hints your teacher might give on sections that are priority. Often, when students study in order, they don’t leave enough time to properly study the last units. Its also usually a safe bet that you’ll be tested heavily on the most recent information you’ve learned, so make sure to revise it thoroughly.

  1. Setting Overly Ambitious Study Goals

If you’re setting out to study for 8 hours in a day, it’ll be very difficult to accomplish. Even if you’re sitting down the entire time, your body and brain will usually feel drained after 4-5 hours of intensive studying. What’s more, if you’ve mentally blocked out such a long time period, you’ll probably use your hours much less efficiently and end up spending 40-50% of that time on FB or Instagram. Also, if you’re unrealistic with what you want to get done, you’ll probably feel unmotivated and upset when you don’t accomplish what you set out to.

  1. Sacrificing Sleep to Study

We generally see this with our older students, but make sure you aren’t staying up late the night before your exam. It’s super important to get a good night’s rest every night during exam periods, since good sleep is one of the most important tools for helping you retain information. Going to bed at your normal bedtime will also mean you aren’t cramming at the last minute- something you definitely want to avoid!

  1. Negative Thinking

This is something we talk about allllll the time. The absolute worst thing you can do when studying is to beat yourself up. Didn’t do so well on your last test? Don’t sweat it! Look at each evaluation or exam as a fresh start, and a new chance to prove to yourself that you’ve got this. Since you can’t control what the exam will cover, or its level of difficulty –  focus on what you can control- your mentality! Take pauses and deep breathes if you start to feel flustered while studying, and just keep telling yourself “I can, and I will!”

MMMVAs (Much Music Math Video Awards)

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Sometimes the internet just blows us away. Between the thousands of memes, Buzzfeed lists, and those quick speed cooking videos all over our Facebook feeds, it’s never a dull moment. YouTube in particular is home to some pretty sweet content, including these HILARIOUS math parody music videos. Today, in our own version of the Much Music Video Awards, we’ve rounded up our favourites. If you’re in need of a little pre-homework pump up, get into the zone with one of these videos. We promise they’ll have you calculating to the beat.

“It’s Just Math” – Frozen Let It Go Parody

Yes, Anna and Elsa love math. This song has an emphasis on geometry, which makes perfect sense, since Elsa’s frozen castle was basically constructed out of ICEsoceles triangles. (Pun, very much intended).

“Teach Me How to Factor” – Teach Me How to Dougie Parody 

What’s better than catchy rap? How about a catchy MATH rap. This parody of “Teach Me How to Dougie” will actually teach you how to factor. So if you’re tired of staring at your notes from class, drop this beat in the background while you’re doing your homework and you’ll be a factoring pro in no time.

“All I Do is Solve” – All I Do is Win Parody

Ok huge shoutout to the WSHS math department for killing it with these videos. The same school who put together “Teach Me How to Factor” also has this gem of a song. “All I Do is Solve” focuses on solving equations, and it even goes through the three different methods, graphing, elimination and substitution!

“Slope” – Hello Parody

Ok so maybe this one is significantly cheesier than our other picks, but if you’re trying to learn slope, this parody of Adele’s “Hello” is pretty bang on. Also props to this teacher who clearly just really wanted to sing about mx + b.

Uptown Factors – Uptown Funk Parody

We’ll finish up on an upbeat note! This is another video about factoring, but this time featuring a slightly more recent chart topper with this parody of Uptown Funk. We’re obsessed with everything about this video – from the dance moves, to the outfits to the informative equations that pop up throughout! You won’t be able to help but sing along!

SUPER Study Spaces

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With exam season around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about strategies you can implement into your study routine to help you ace those finals. Sometimes a lot more is needed than just a desk with some pencils and paper. Being in a space that is comfortable, but conducive to studying will help you work more efficiently, while also keeping you chilled out and focused. Below we’ve listed some key things you should look for in a good study space.

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1. Good Lighting

How are you going to study if you can’t read your textbook?! A well-lit space is so important if you want to avoid straining your eyes. Not only is it bad for them, but it’s usually the cause of that horrible study headache we’ve all experienced. If you’re studying at your desk, make sure you have a good desk lamp and position it in the top left corner so the light falls in the same direction that you read. If you’re at a coffee shop or library try to snag a spot next to a window so you can take in as much natural daylight as possible!

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2. Comfy Chair

As far as we know, no one’s ever studied on a stool and lasted more than 20 minutes. Comfort is key when studying and you want to make sure your back is being well supported so you don’t get any painful aches! However, if you’re sitting on something too plushy, like a couch, you might find yourself fighting the urge to doze off. Try and find a chair that keeps you upright, has a comfortable seat and a solid backrest.

IMG_07003. Minimal Noise

This one may be controversial, but we do recommend you don’t try and memorize your biology terminology with hard core hip hop blasting. Although lots of students find that studying with music in the background helps them focus, make sure you aren’t getting distracted by singing along. Instrumental music sometimes actually helps – try electro, or even some classical. Although coffee shops are great places to study, sometimes they can be a little too noisy. Try and scope out spots where you know the music and the atmosphere are chilled out enough that you’ll be able to focus.

IMG_07014. Brain Food

Nothing builds up an appetite like a long study sesh. If you find your energy has started to dip but you’re determined to finish that last problem set, grabbing a quick (and HEALTHY) snack will re-energize you so you can push on. Nuts and granola are a great option, as are crackers with hummus or cheese. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, try out these healthy energy balls that are packed with protein but have a hint of chocolate. We are of course also in favour of sitting down with a soothing cup of tea, and replenishing as often as you like!unnamed5. No Distractions

GUYS. Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat will not disappear forever if you don’t check them every 10 minutes. Put your phone out of sight – we suggest leaving it in a different room altogether, preferably one in which you have to climb 2 flights of stairs to get to 😉 You know even if you tell yourself you’ll only scroll for 5 minutes, it’s easy to get wrapped into a cyber vortex and waste half an hour without even realizing it. If you really need your laptop or phone with you, download an app like Forest. It grows a virtual tree while you leave the work-related app you’re using open, but kills it once you leave – don’t be a tree killer!!

Because The National Post Didn’t Want To Print This

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Every once in awhile you read an article in another publication that makes you scream “THIS! THIS IS WHAT IS WRONG WITH THE UNIVERSE!” Well, that happened to me last week. So, like any normal human being, I wrote a scathing Op Ed piece for The National Post. And of course they didn’t publish it. Lucky you, I’m going to share it with you anyways. Enjoy!

In response to this gem of an article from The National Post, which essentially promotes the idea that some of us should simply ‘give up on math’ at the age of eight: Embrace your ineptitude when giving up is the right thing to do

“Embrace your ineptitude when giving up is the right thing to do.” First of all, wow, what a statement to make to your educated readers, many (if not most) who have no doubt worked hard to get where they are today – an aptitude level that enables them to read and (gasp!) understand the verbose and multi-syllabic lexicon of this very publication. What would have happened to this group of people is they had decided in say, Grade 2, that they simply didn’t and never would have the capacity to read so perhaps they should instead focus their efforts on ‘what they’re good at’? Numeracy and the presently increasing lack thereof among the younger generation is a growing concern, and as someone who failed math before realizing that her perceived ineptitude was simply something imposed upon her, I take issue with the notion that mathematical and direction-following ability is something that large portions of our population (marginalized groups and women, no less) are inherently bad at.

When I was in high school, I failed math. Twice. Of course, that made sense. I wasn’t good at math, I was good at art and English, usually it’s one or the other isn’t it? Can people really be good at multiple things? Shocker. My parents weren’t having it (which I am grateful for to this day, thanks mom and dad), and enrolled me in a smaller school where teachers didn’t indulge in the idea of ‘math people’ and ‘non math people’. Within a week I was enjoying the wonders of the forbidden fruits that mathematical knowledge held under the guidance of a teacher who believed in me right from the moment I walked into her classroom. I ended the year with a 99% in Grade 12 math, and went on to achieve a grade of 100% in first year university Calculus. I pursued a business degree, a teaching degree, and a Masters of Arts in Mathematics Education and now own a math & science tutoring studio in Toronto where the focus is on specifically eradicating and extinguishing the notion that ‘some people just can’t do it.’

Do we “live in a society that wants to change us into mathematicians and direction-followers,” or do we (and should we) live in a society where everyone has the opportunity to decide if they want to be a mathematician or direction-follower?  I see hundreds of students a week, most of whom do poorly at math because of a lack of confidence and a deeply embedded sense of inability. I work with students who, once they begin to succeed, are incredibly empowered by the realization that they can do something they believed so deeply that they couldn’t.

Math is more than calculations and Google Maps. Math is the intuitive ability to solve problems, to get creative, to think outside the box, something that no calculator or GPS can do for you. Sure different people may have different natural strengths, but do we really think that giving up if something proves difficult is any way to approach the many curveballs that life throws at us?  You say you’re here to tell us that “most of us cannot be changed.” I’m here to tell you that most of us can be changed if given the opportunity, the inspiration, and the impetus to want to change. I’m living proof and I hope my story speaks to those discouraged and disempowered by your message that their brains perhaps simply ‘don’t work in a particular way.’ Your brains all work just fine – now go embrace that mathematical aptitude burning within and find a problem that needs solving!

Learn To Love Learning As Much As Kanye Loves Kanye

Studying on the beach like whoa
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Ahhhh March Break. A respite from the painful 9-3:15 of having knowledge shoved at you period after period by teachers who care about your enjoyment of said knowledge, and sadly, many who don’t.  For many, this is a time to finally take a brain break, to spend your time guiltlessly on Netflix marathons, gluing yourselves to your iPhones, and oh hey – actual extracurricular activities like swimming and skiing and like, talking to actual people in real life! And then after a week (or two for you lucky pay-more-for-less-school private kids), it all ends, and you go back to the dreary process of LEARNING, ugh gross blecccchh what could be worse than filling your mind with fascinating new information that you DIDN’T KNOW BEFORE?!

Okay well when I was a teenager, I didn’t feel that way.

The problem is that learning has REALLY gotten a bad rap. Like, it’s out of control. I say the word ‘learn’ or ‘think’ to a teenager, and something seriously frightening happens – like, this eye-roll into the backs of their actual SKULLS and a disgusted “UGHHHHHHH” that might last anywhere from 3-32 seconds, followed by this thing they do where they mush their fingers into their eye sockets and pull down the bottoms of their eyelids and sort of contort their faces into ghoul-like masks. It is NOT a pretty sight.  Am I concerned about my students’ resemblance to the cast of The Walking Dead at the mere mention of the learning and application of new knowledge?  Yes.  I am. I don’t know what it is they’re conjuring when they hear the word ‘learn,’ but it certainly isn’t the same as what I associated with the word when I was in high school.

I think that part of the problem is that students tend to equate learning with a few rather unattractive synonyms. I shall list them here:

  • Boring
  • Lame
  • Hard
  • Good grades
  • Meaninglessness
  • Pointlessness
  • Pain
  • Uninspiring
  • Falling apart
  • Smelling like paint
  • Asbestos

This is based on actual, real-life experiences I have had with students who have said each of these words. In real life. To me. (I think those last three actually refer to the insides of students’ schools which in turn they associate with learning – either way, when a student refers to ‘learning’ as ‘falling apart,’ we’ve got a problem.)

When I was a teenager, like every kid I loved March Break. But I loved the end of March Break just as much. I know this fact is difficult to digest and believe, but it’s the truth. Okay, when I was in my I-hate-school-and-need-to-move-to-Hollywood phase, I hated the end of March Break. But once I got over that, that’s what I’m talking about. The end of March Break signaled the beginning of spring. The days were longer, the air was sweeter, and patio weather was possible at any point. What this really meant for me was that my love for learning could expand beyond the confines of my classroom, local coffee shop, or bedroom. The city was my educational oyster, and I its willing pupil!

Part of the reason I loved learning was that I loved studying. I loved feeling like this important person who had all of this important information to learn and dissect and organize into detailed notes in order to make sense of. And I liked it because I think it just made me feel important, like one of those business people that’s always carrying around a briefcase of really important papers and like, scribbling illegible notes all over them frantically, as though at the risk of losing some very epic and potentially world-changing revelation. Or maybe I’m just thinking of The Imitation Game. Whatever. But part of the whole feeling I had was that of this society I imagined where everyone was running around doing incredibly important things; and I wanted to be one of them. Call me an old soul, call me a narcissist, either way, this led to me developing a love for learning – and especially, a love for exhibitionist learning. I have carried this desire to be a functioning member of society with me to this very day, employing the same methods to carry out my work as I used when I was in high school. WHAT methods, you ask? Well, this is the part where I impart my wisdom on you in list form and provide you with a variety of ways in which you too can reposition learning from “pointless” to “powerful,” and from “asbestos” to “AWESOME.”

  1. Get into exhibitionism. Contrary to popular belief, this does not necessarily entail getting naked. So please keep your clothes on. In fact, clothing is a critical part of this piece of advice. What I’m talking about is getting out of your messy bedroom or lame-o library, shedding your sweats, and dressing the part. Get yourself into whatever outfit screams “I am SUPER IMPORTANT and have SUPER IMPORTANT things to do so GET OUT OF MY WAY” (think: Elle Woods, Cher Horowitz, Chuck Bass…you get the gist), pack your bag full of school supplies, and go somewhere to study that is right in the heart of the public eye. You want to essentially create a situation where if TMZ was skulking around doing a piece on “super important celebs doing mysterious yet super important things,” the paps would be alllll over you. That’s what we’re going for here. Which leads to my next point.

    Cher Horowitz & Dionne Davenport, outfits on point in Clueless. Ugh they look SO IMPORTANT!

     

    Gossip Girl's Chuck Bass getting ready to HIT THE BOOKS. Guaranteed that's what he's doing.

    Gossip Girl’s Chuck Bass getting ready to HIT THE BOOKS. Guaranteed that’s what he’s doing.

  2. Find your Chateau Marmont. In order to FEEL important, you need to feel surrounded by important people. Well guess what? Important people are not hanging out in your dining room or local library. The search for the perfect study space is a tough one, but was always, and continues to be, my absolute favourite part of the study process. You know what they say: location, location, location! And by ‘they’ I mean Real Estate agents. Forget the usual suspects and find yourself a hipster coffee shop, fancy lunch spot, or the latest trendy fro-yo place (or whatever new frozen desert is currently trending, I can’t keep up) to set yourself up at. Think outside the box! The ‘ideal study spot’ checklist is long and nuanced and most likely requires a post all to itself, but things to check for include: wifi, comfy chairs, non-wobbly tables, and snacking potential, the latter being the most important; nothing kills a good study buzz like hunger! Whatever you do, find somewhere you can’t wait to set up your pseudo-office at, and get pumped to be the shining star who you know that everyone around you will shortly begin to envy.
  3. Get your squad in check. When I was in high school, my friends and I had a totally tight study squad. We would all meet up at Sweet Surrenders, this incredible place that exclusively served giant slices of cake and ridiculously decadent beverages, and we would study together for entire evenings. It was SO MUCH FUN. I know what you’re thinking: nerd alert! Whatever, please. What could be more fun than passionately arguing over the right way to solve a trig identity over a slice of chocolate spice mocha cheesecake? NOTHING. Forget your friends that just want to gab and take a trillion selfies instead of hitting the books – they’re useless to you now. Assemble the right squad, and make this your thing.
  4. Slap on that SPF and get some sun. This is actually why I started writing this in the first place! My romantic notions of March Break ending just as sunny spring weather begins, while empirically inaccurate, remains an oasis of hope for me. In Toronto we definitely have those freak days where it’s like, 7 whole degrees in FEBRUARY (which is insanely hot for Toronto in the dead of winter) and everyone loses their MINDS, slaps on a pair of short shorts, and you legit can’t get a seat on a single patio because they are all RAMMED because guys, we’re Canadian and we’re hardcore. Likewise, after March Break I totally remember those freak 17 degree spring days that would inspire me to head to my favourite park, set up shop at a beat-up picnic table, and get to work with the air of one of those brooding souls who thinks she might be the next Buddha, sitting under the tree of life (read: some rando maple tree) percolating upon her Finite Mathematics textbooks. Studying in the sun can make SUCH a difference. Nothing is falling apart. There is asbestos nowhere.
  1. Act the part. You brain is a muscle yearning for the fruit of knowledge. Your heart hungers to learn, search, explore, master. You have a bag full of books containing an infinite amount of unknown facts waiting to be known. You have a mission. You matter. YOU ARE VERY IMPORTANT. NOW GET OUT THERE AND LEARN SOMETHING.

In summary, Webster’s Dictionary defines ‘learning’ as “the acquisition of knowledge or skills through experience, study, or by being taught.” There is literally NOTHING bad about that definition. Not one thing! That being said, just like ‘working out,’ it’s really up to YOU to make learning fun instead of painstakingly boring. I mean, you could be one of those dudes that’s constantly grunting at the gym while repetitively lifting a giant piece of metal over and over to exhaustion…OR you could take a super fun Beyoncification class and DANCE yourself into a frenzied sweat! Similarly, you could lock yourself in your bedroom, studying until the crack of dawn like a crazy mole child who’s never seen the light of day, or you could swagger over to your fave Starbucks with your friends, and study in style. It’s really up to you. Do you want to be Beyonce? Or a MOLE CHILD???

So here we are. It’s March break. I’m on a beach. And I’m reading academic journal articles FOR THE FUN OF IT. Attribution theory and girls’ attitudes about math? Can’t wait to hear more. Parents’ influence on children’s gender roles? Hit me up. The correlation between gendered toys and math anxiety? PLEASE TELL ME ABOUT IT.  Learning is something I miss when I don’t allocate time for it, and now on March Break, when most of you are taking a ‘break from learning,’ I am happily soaking up new information at the speed that my SPF-15 covered skin (not enough, I know, sorry mom!) is soaking up the rays. I only hope that you can use some of this advice to find a way to fall in love with learning as I have – it will change your life. And for those of you legit watching me right now to the left – yes you three who have been taking selfies for like, 2+ hours – stop adding me to your “losers at the beach” snapchat story and go read a book. Posers.

xoxo

 

 

New Year, New (Smarter) You: this one’s for the parents!

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Okay okay, so in 2015 you yelled, you cried, you threatened – and it didn’t REALLY work – did it? You vow that 2016 will be the year that your child takes ownership over school, but you need to make sure that happens without losing your sanity! I get it, and I’ve got ideas!

I was on Global Television’s morning show last week with my top three tips on how to help your child while helping yourself. I wanted to share those tips in written form, and add a few more to the list – so here I go!

1. Give your child the independence they crave. This isn’t as scary as it sounds – I promise! Your teenager wants to feel as though you trust them, and as though they’re independent – they crave it. Cut them a deal: if they can show you a study schedule (make them SHOW you) and stick to it, you’ll stop bugging them to study. Simple – you get to stop stressing, they get to do all the work – just like you always wanted! Make sure you come up with a concrete plan with timelines. They get to try their plan for two weeks, or until their next test or assignment is due. Once you see how they’ve done on that evaluation, you can decide whether the schedule is working or not! Oh, and make sure you check in with their teacher to see if their homework is being done – if their schedule is as tight as they profess, they should be getting everything done on time, and it should show in class!

2. Get connected.  As a parent, it’s important to use your resources (aka precious, precious TIME!) wisely. Stressing over your kid’s homework is a futile way to spend time – but using that time to connect with your child’s teachers = useful! Get to know each and every one of them and ask the following:

  1. How is my child currently doing?
  2. How can they improve (specifically)?
  3. How can I help you help them?

We’re all busy, so if you can’t find time to actually hit the classroom, send them an email. Teachers want to help, and they want your child to do well. Taking a few minutes to make the connection and to find out what their expectations are will let them know that you – and your child – really care!

3. Go Feng Shui.  Okay you don’t have to like, totally go Feng Shui, but you should definitely consider creating a chill study zone in your home. Often kids find it hard to get in the groove because they don’t have a designated space that triggers that study-vibe lurking within. Create a designated space to be used for schoolwork ONLY – and keep it that way!

4. Emphasize effort instead of grades.  Sometimes it feels like the only purpose of doing homework, doing well on tests, and spending countless hours studying, is to achieve some sort of benchmark. A student once asked me what the point was of putting in the amount of effort she did, if she didn’t ultimately get the grade she wanted. I was totally shocked – and sort of really sad! Working hard in school not only builds character and work ethic – it turns your mind into a kaleidoscope of information that never existed before! Learning is amazing and learning HOW to learn is amazing. Just because your child’s marks aren’t skyrocketing, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t working hard and gaining something from the experience. Make sure you place importance on the process so that they feel confident and productive always!

5. Help your child set and achieve THEIR goals.  We spend so much time emphasizing our goals that we forget that our kids are little humans with dreams and aspirations of their own. It’s not really that inspiring trying to reach goals set by someone ELSE. And that’s why this is the best idea ever.

Think about it: it’s hard for kids to get motivated when it seems as though their life is an endless pile of work. School has a purpose, and that purpose is to ultimately place your child in a position to achieve their dreams. This is the perfect time to sit down with your child and have a heart to heart – get them to write down a list of goals, short and long term. Without pressure, talk to them about how they might achieve those goals. Getting focused in a casual way can be not only anxiety-reducing, but really inspiring! Plus, you can finally stop asking them WHAT THE HECK THEY PLAN TO DO WITH THEIR LIVES!

Got a tip on how to make 2016 the year your child does academically better without driving you nuts? Let us know – comment below!