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Math & Science Problem Solving

Fear of Math?

Many people feel anxious at the thought of having to perform mathematical calculations. This anxiety can actually affect your performance.

  • Believe in yourself! Maintain a growth mindset and know that if you put in the work, you can learn something new.
  • It’s not always easy – but that’s okay! Problem solving takes time and effort. Give yourself lots of time and patience.
  • Don’t be afraid of asking for help.
Math and Science Problem Solving

Study Tips for Math & Science

Learning Skills Services

Studying Throughout the Semester

  • Get in lots of practice!
    • Make use of questions from past assignments, homework, review packages, etc. If you’re taking a first or second year math or science course, Bethune College has some course-specific resources, such as Peer Tutoring or PASS.
    • Practice problems that are at an appropriate level of difficulty.
    • Don’t practice in the same order as the textbook – mix it up!
  • Understand first, memorize later
    • Focus on knowing what the concept is and how you can apply it to a problem.
    • Don’t just memorize formulas! Knowing a formula is only helpful if you know when and how to use it.
  • Give yourself the time to learn
    • Just reading isn’t enough. You must do the calculations to fully master the concepts.
    • Avoid jumping to the answers right away. Skip the question if you’re stuck, but come back to it at a later point to try again.
    • Try not to fall behind! Lots of math and science concepts build on each other, making it much harder to catch up later.
    • If a concept isn’t clear, get clarification and ask for help.  Online resources, like Khan Academy, can be a great place to start if you want a quick refresher or explanation.
Types of Exams

Writing Math & Science Exams

  • Get yourself ready
    • Start studying well in advance of your test.
    • Know what you can have with you during the exam, such as calculators, formula sheets, or your textbook.
    • Make your formula sheet as you review and practice using it as you study. You want to know exactly where everything is during your exam and how to use it.
  • Take a deep breath
    • Know that you have already put in the hard work. Now it’s just time to show that you know how to apply the concepts!
    • Give yourself a couple of minutes before starting the exam to take a breather. The extra 5 minutes of studying won’t be as helpful as going into the exam calm and ready.
  • Exam Time
    • If you’re not allowed a formula sheet, keeping all of that information in your head can be stressful! If you can, quickly write everything that you’re scared of forgetting down on your exam or scrap paper so you can refer to it at anytime.
    • Stuck on a question? It is okay to move on if you’re on a time crunch. Know the weight of each question and time yourself appropriately. Come back to it if the exam format allows.

Problem Solving Approaches for Math & Science

ROPOSE Approach

  • Read: What is the question asking of you?
  • Organize: What are the given values? What are the unknowns?
  • Picture: Visualize the problem. Draw diagrams, mindmaps, etc.
  • Order: Break down the problem into steps.
  • Solve: Perform the steps.
  • Evaluate: Check your answer. Does it make sense?

Concept Summary

A common approach to studying lots of equations is trying to memorize all the formulas and hunting for the one that works when faced with a problem. However, this is not the best way to learn! Summarizing all the equations you’re given into a Concept Summary Worksheet helps you understand what the formulas really mean, how they differ from one another, and when to use each one.

Additional Resources

Math & Science Exam Tip SheetPDFGuidelines for how to study for and write math & science exams.
Concept Summary ChecklistPDF
Worksheet for summarizing math concepts.
Study Strategies That WorkLearning Skills Workshop
Student Numeracy Assistance Centre at Keele (SNACK)Provides support to students in LA&PS courses that involve math, stats and Excel