Learning Strategies

For a few students in the class, the subject will come easily. Other students will find the concepts and problem-solving challenges to be more difficult. If the class is challenging for you, success will require a greater investment of time and effort.

  1. Reading assignments: Read each assignment (posted on the syllabus page) before the lecture and again as soon as possible after the lecture.
  2. Take advantage of textbook examples: The textbook examples provide a great study resource. Use a piece of paper to cover the solution while reading the problem, then attempt to work the problem yourself. Check the solution bit-by-bit to help yourself along only when necessary. Check your work with the textbook solution when you have completed the problem. This is helpful for review, even if you have seen the problems before!
  3. Engage in the lectures: Attending the lectures and seeing demonstrations is an important step, but the lecture cannot be passively received - you need to active engage it! Bring paper to make scratch notes when working example problems, ask questions when it isn't making sense. If you find your attention wandering over the course of the lecture, trying sitting towards the front of the room, to better connect to your instructor.
  4. Attend Discussion Sessions: Discussion section quizzes will be a significant component of your final grade, but more importantly the smaller class format gives you an opportunity to more closely engage with an instructor, and to ask questions on concepts and problem solving. Take advantage! If you are confused about some concept, odds are that most of your class feels the same way. So, ask!
  5. Homework: Complete the homework ahead of time. Attempt problems yourself first, to avoid reliance on others to help you analyze the problem from the start. But then DO study with other students: explaining and discussiong concepts and problems will boost your ability to retain and utilize the concepts.
  6. Utilize office hours: Bring specific questions, or stubborn problems to work through, to TA or instructor office hours.
  7. Other Resources: If you need more examples, the student solution manuals may be helpful. Many more solutions are available on various websites, some of which appear to be quite good in terms of presentation (some solutions revealed step-by-step, for example, to allow you to opportunity to complete the problem yourself). These would seem to be potentially a useful resource if used correctly (although I've heard complaints about the quality of solutions at some popular sites). Note that finding homework solutions somewhere isn't very valuable: you can work these problems out yourself, with multiple attempts through MasteringPhysics. The value in these other resources would be as a study aid to improve exam prepartion.
  8. Work more problems: There are a large number of additional problems at the end of each chapter. Working a large fraction of these will help reinforce concepts and prepare you for the challenging exams!

    1. Focus on problems that are not catagorized by textbook section, since these don't give you the head start of knowing which concept you need to use.
    2. Odd-numbered end-of-chapter problems have the answers (though not the solutions) in the back of the book.
    3. Focus on completing the problems. Don't ignore "small" mistakes that give you a wrong numerical answer even when you have the concept down. Remember that the exams are all multiple-choice, so little mistakes can cost you time and/or points on an exam. Train yourself to focus on completing the problem, and to check for common errors.
    4. Can't figure a problem out? Maybe its not the end of the world, but if you think there is a concept you aren't getting (or you just don't like "losing" to a problem), feel free to bring the question to TA or your professor's office hours.