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General

3 Easy Ways To Use Your Notes For Final Exam Studying

Many students take notes in class but then don't use them to study.

Actively rereading your science or history notes before review week is a great way to prime your brain to retain the material your teacher will soon be going over in class:

Read your notes out loud. This works best when you read to another person, but you can read to yourself, too.
As you read, put question marks next to...
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How To Begin Studying For Final Exams

The way to begin, is to begin. -Eleanor Roosevelt   The best students don't work harder; they work ahead. Often, students put off studying for final exams because the process seems overwhelming and they don't know where to start. The good news is that just getting going is what matters. There's no need to worry about studying in a certain order, studying material that then doesn't wind up on the exam, confusing yourself, or other such concerns.
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General

How To Help Kids Make Knowledge Stick

Kids tend to under-prepare for tests and be overly optimistic about the quality of their writing, and parents may suspect laziness or lack of motivation. However, much of the problem can be the student's fuzzy sense of what "knowing the material" means or what "a good essay" is. The ability to "know what you know" is called metacognition, and it's one of the big developmental tasks for maturing students. The younger the student, the less perspective they have on their own knowledge.   Here are some ways adults can help young learners develop their logic and make sense of the world around them:
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General

Unfortunately, Ignorance Feels Blissful: The Dunning-Kruger Effect

In my last post, I wrote about a student who couldn't tell whether or not he "knew" the material for a history exam. At least my student was knowledgeable enough to have doubts about his knowledge. Ironically, the truly clueless often don't wonder; they tend to be quite secure that they've got it knocked! Psychologists call this the Dunning-Kruger Effect, in which ignorant people often have great confidence in their "knowledge," whereas better-informed people tend to doubt themselves. 
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General

Study Gradually, Starting NOW, To Be Ready For Final Exams

Many otherwise good students didn't do as well as they had hoped on their midterm exams. They couldn't remember the quantities of material, or they couldn't pull isolated facts and procedures together and use them in a coordinated way. What's the point of working so hard to learn, a student may wonder, if the material is just going to fall out of my head?  The brain holds onto information which it has used actively and repeatedly. Research shows that the way to get information to stick in long-term memory is to keep quizzing yourself, using flash cards and practice tests. Try these study strategies to hold on to what you learn and be ready for final exams in May or June: Study a bit every day. Cramming might get you through a test, but what you "learned" will then quickly fall away, leaving you to study the very same stuff all over again before the final exam. You should be studying all along, by taking some time every day to rework a few math problems from old tests or homework, rewrite a paragraph from an essay that was returned to you, flip a few flashcards from a previous chapter, etc. Study the same way you'll be tested. Rereading notes and highlighting aren't great study strategies, because on the test you'll need to retrieve and apply the material, not just read it. Study by using flash cards, working math problems on paper, and writing short answers and paragraphs, because these methods are similar to what you'll need to do on exam day. Strive to understand. Your brain is very practical, and it doesn't hold on to material it doesn't understand (because what good is that?) So, make sure you take the time to understand what you are learning; this is hard at first when you know very little, but it makes learning easier and easier as you become more knowledgeable.
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General

Tools To Get You Studying for the SAT, ACT, SSAT, ISEE and Other Tests

Several of my students took the first New SAT on March 5, and they found the test wasn't nearly as hard as they had feared. Like all new things, standardized tests become less scary and more manageable with familiarity and practice. There are plenty of resources out there to help you get ready for any standardized test you'll be taking, from elementary level through grad school. I've collected a few of my favorites below.
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General

Pythagorean Pitfalls: Help for Math Students

As I go on my tutoring rounds, I wind up reteaching and clarifying the same material over and over. Certain topics and concepts are just plain hard for students to wrap their heads around. Many kids in grades 6-10 are currently covering Pythagorean Theorem or other geometry topics, and many are struggling (as usual!) with the word problems. If you are a parent, thinking Yipes ! I don't remember Pythagorean Theorem, the good news is that most students find the actual formula pretty do-able. But, they need help in reading the problem and drawing the diagram. Here's a sample problem from one textbook:
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Education

Ratios Are Hard For Student Brains To Learn

Right now, algebra students are studying unit rates, proportions and dimensional analysis. Geometry students are working on similar figures and triangle proportionality theorems. All of these topics are hard for the same reason: They involve ratios, which may seem easy for adults but are actually deeply challenging for the learning brain to grasp. A ratio is the comparison of two numbers, usually using a fraction bar. If there are two dogs and three cats in a room, I could write that the ratio of dogs to cats is 2/3. Like so many things (reading, driving), ratios become second nature with enough practice, and people lose touch with how difficult they were to learn. And like reading and driving, ratios are hard for the brain because they involve simultaneity of thought. The brain is required to multi-task; it must think about the 2 dogs while at the same time thinking about the 3 cats.
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