Date: 02/04/2002 at 16:45:23 From: Dannie Subject: Tests in Algebra Hi, It isn't really a math problem but it is a problem. Last Thursday I spent 2 hours studying for a math test (I'm in 8th grade). I had no distractions, a lot of light, no TV or music on, and I really concentrated on my work. I took a test Friday and got it back today. It was an 86 and my homework was a 50! No matter how hard I try it's not good enough. I understand the material - it's the other stuff, like when it asked me for the range, domain, and inverse of ordered pairs, I just put the inverse because I misread the question. Or like when I had the right answer on scrap paper but I left off part of the answer when I wrote it on the answer sheet. It makes me feel really stupid. I've had this problem with careless mistakes since 6th grade, but it's getting worse. Proofreading my work helps very little and sometimes I don't have time when I'm done with the test. What do I do? - Frustrated
Date: 02/04/2002 at 19:23:14 From: Doctor Rick Subject: Re: Tests in Algebra Hi, Dannie. You sound like a diligent student with good study habits. I hope you can see all the things you do well, and not dwell too much on this one stumbling block. I can understand how frustrating it is when something like this keeps you from showing the ability that you really have. You have observed some specific kinds of mistakes you make, and that's a great way to start. One step in problem solving that many people forget about - even after checking your work, which is easy enough to forget - is to look back on what you've done and see what you can learn from it. Sometimes you see something positive that you'll be able to use again - a trick that worked, or a pattern you saw ("when I see this, I can try that"). Other times, as in your case, you see something to avoid next time. The question is, how can you avoid these sorts of mistakes? You say that you misread a question, so you didn't give all the answers that you should have. This is a reminder that another important step in problem solving - the first, and sometimes the most important - is to ask, "What am I supposed to find?" Try making a ritual of starting a problem by listing exactly what you are supposed to find. Then when you finish your work, write each answer next to the list, or at least check off your list as you copy the answers. This will also solve your other observation: that you forgot to copy all the answer from your scratch paper. You have shown great observation and self-examination skills as you looked at the papers you got back. Keep that up. As you notice other sorts of things that mess you up, think of this as just another problem to solve: what can I do next time that will make it harder to make the same mistake, or easier to catch it? I hope this will help. I'm impressed with your observation and perseverance, so I think you can make this work! - Doctor Rick, The Math Forum http://mathforum.org/dr.math/
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