Study Skills That Actually Work!

Friends who study together, stay together!

“I studied SO hard for my math test, knew everything, and still BOMBED it – what gives?!”

Sound familiar? It does to me! Being in the tutoring business, I hear many of the same things over and over again – and that’s what gives me insight into what our tutors need to tackle with students. Test taking – a huge one!

It’s been one month since school started, which is about the time is takes for teachers to assign their first major test – aka FREAKOUT TIME!

Sure, learning the actual math and science curriculum is a given when it comes to tutoring, but there is often a lot more than meets the eye when it comes to getting good grades at school. Knowing the material is half the battle – but the OTHER half is a combination of things, one being the development of study skills…that ACTUALLY work. I say it this way because many of our students ‘study’…they just don’t study effectively. This often results in frustration and a lack of confidence that goes on to negatively affect their math marks and even their attitude towards school, which totally sucks.

I was recently on Global’s The Morning Show talking about how choosing the right strategies to study effectively can be daunting, especially because there are so so many to choose from, and their effectiveness really does depend on the individual. So let’s start here, with a list of study techniques that might REALLY work for you!

1. Choose your work space wisely!

When I was in high school, I could NOT stand working in a quiet space. Libraries? Forget it. Kitchen table? No way. It made me restless and lonely and I just felt like studying SUCKED when I was all alone. The best thing for me was to set up at a cozy coffee shop and study for hours – I loved it. The buzz around me was bustling enough to make me feel like I was part of something, but not loud and distinct enough to distract me from what I was doing. To this day, my favourite places to write, study or do work are coffee shops! Plus, if you need a snack break, you don’t have to even go anywhere – perfection.

That being said, the “coffee shop strategy” won’t work for just anyone. Some people get distracted by ANYthing and really do need to be sequestered, alone, somewhere. If that’s you, it’s important to have a designated space to study – your kitchen, den, bedroom – whatever it is, make it THE place you study, and have everything you might possibly need in that space so that when you’re ready for it, it’s ready for you.

2. Skimming doesn’t equal studying!

Reading over your math notes in NO way replaces actual practice. This is one of the biggest ways in which students misuse their studying time! The best way to study for a math or science test is to go over past problems you’ve done in class, in previous quizzes, or in your homework. Do them ALL over again and make sure you get them right the second time around!

3. Your teacher gives you freebies – you just need to listen!

If you’re short on time and wondering which questions to focus on while studying, always start with the questions your teacher covered in class! Chances are, those are the ones they think are the most important!

4. Study before you actually HAVE to study!

We all know that cramming isn’t exactly the best way to study for a test – and there’s an easy way to avoid it! In addition to doing your homework at night, take a few minutes to go through the notes you took in class, fill in any gaps, and make sure you understand them. If there’s anything that you don’t fully get, address it with your teacher the next day. By the time you get assigned a test, you at least know that you get the gist of the subject matter – now you just have to fully nail it down!

Quick Fix: Do’s and Don’ts to Studying Effectively

  • DON’T have your phone ANYWHERE NEAR YOU. It literally cannot benefit you in any way – trust me! Take a ten minute phone break every hour if you absolutely need your instagram fix;)
  • DO get organized from day one – get a binder for every subject and make sure that it’s organized on a daily basis! That way when it comes to study time, you have everything ready to go!
  • DON’T “borrow your friend’s calculator”! Every calculator is different and you want your very own that you can get to know and master before test time strikes!
  • DO study with friends – as long as they don’t distract you! Make sure you all study independently, even if you’re in the same place – that way you’re still getting actual studying in, but have someone to ask for help if you’re totally stumped on something!
  • DON’T stay up all night! All-nighters are one of the worst things that can happen to your brain – check out this article for the sordid details – ew!
  • DO take breaks! Your brain needs to rest and rejuvenate, so take a ten minute break every hour. If you want to get really hardcore, use that ten minutes for exercise – 100 jumping jacks go a long way towards rejuvenating your brain AND getting your blood flowing after staring at a textbook for an hour!

Craving more knowledge? Check out ASAP SCIENCE’S quick video on the 9 best scientific study tips – it’s one of our favourites!

Cheers and happy studying!



Why Peace. Love. Pi.?

The Math Guru

Well, as the sweet scent of September soars in the air (along with the equally sweet scent of those school supply stacked Staples aisles), I figure it’s time to do what I should have done LAST September: Start a blog!!!

Hold up, we’re moving too fast. Let’s start at the beginning:) Hello, my name is Vanessa. I am the founder/director of learning and inspiration of The Math Guru, a boutique math and science tutoring studio in uptown Toronto which I started almost four years ago! Why did I decide to do such a thing you ask? Well, when I was in high school, I actually failed Grade Eleven math twice. Twice! Like many people who haven’t found their educational guru, I hated math; until one day, I found mine.

My parents weren’t too pleased with my whole “I’m just not a math person” thing and so they decided it was time for an educational switch. So, in Grade Twelve I headed to another school – and found my mathematical guru. Not only did my new teacher speak to me in words that made sense, but she inspired me to find the ‘math person’ within – the one that lies within us all. Most importantly, I learned that even though some things don’t come easy, that with enough perseverance and perspective that those things do come – one way or another.

I couldn’t believe that I had wasted such a huge chunk of my teenage life convinced that math just wasn’t something that I was ever going to ‘get’, that this wonderful world of mathematics was simply off limits to some one like me. Totally insane, right?!

I became totally obsessed with the fact that there are a TON of people out there who just THINK that – believe that there’s this type of person out there, with mathematical powers or something. Where do people get this idea in the first place? Why did I, for example, think that I didn’t belong to this group of people?! Was it because I didn’t fit the mathematical stereotype? Because I was artsy? Because I didn’t have glasses and a pocket protector?! Because I totally didn’t know the first thing about video games?! I was obsessed. So, I decided to get a closer look at the STEM fields (Science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and the way that those fields intersect with teenage culture – or don’t! Pretty cool, I know. I ended up publishing a paper titled Imagining a World Where Paris Hilton Loves Mathematics and becoming an expert on the ridiculous ways that the media generates and enforces stereotypes of what it means to be a mathematician!

So back to the whole tutoring centre thing. After all that, I decided that my goal in life was to rid math & science of their bad reputation – to salvage those intricately beautiful bodies of knowledge from the clutches of media-induced stereotyping: To make math and science cool. That’s right. Believe it! But first, I wanted to make sure that I did whatever I could to make sure that no one ever ever went through life thinking that they simply weren’t ‘a math person.’ And so…I started The Math Guru, a super chill boutique math and science tutoring studio! TMG is a safe space where tutors are people too, where learning takes place with tea lattes in hand, and where anyone and everyone can learn to love math and science!

Over the years, I have seen an amazing number of math-haters convert to math-lovers, have watched countless teens change their view of what it means to love math, and have had the absolute pleasure of watching those who think that math and science are totally beyond them eventually get their dream job – you know, the one you imagine you’ll have when you’re a kid and you haven’t learned that society views math and science as the domain of a chosen few.

Most amazingly though, I have seen countless teens experience what I experienced when my world was rocked by an awesome math teacher: not just that “I can do anything” feeling, but that “I can do anything and I want you to feel the same way too” feeling.  It’s not just me that wants to make math and science accessible to everyone – it’s all of the wonderful kids and adults that walk through our doors. How cool is that?!

So, what’s the deal with this blog? Well, this is where you will find my musings on a variety of things including (but not limited to!) math and science education, teenage culture, our education system, STEM, and well, the way all of those things intersect – or often don’t. You won’t just be hearing from me – but from guest bloggers as well. You know what they say: It takes a village!

If there’s a particular topic that you’re interested in reading about, if you’ve got ideas on how to begin to unravel the tightly wound STEM stereotypes out there, if you get your hands on something I absolutely have to see/share, or if you want to write for The Math Guru, get in touch – I would love to hear from you!

The ocean can do what the drop cannot – let’s DO THIS!

peace. love. pi.