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I know I have asked how to learn math before, and everyone basically told me that I can't memorize and that I have to understand the concepts. Well I didn't think that was possible, and I still don't. Infact from trying to understand concept I am now about 4 weeks behind in class and scheduled to fail the class basically no matter what I do.

Talking to everyone in the class the concensus is that you don't ask questions, you just do it. You memorize as much as you can as fast as you can and then move on to the new material. Don't concern yourself with why things work, this is a waste of time and there just isn't enough time in the class to do this.

I think I agree with this, I mean I try and understand things but I rarely do actually understand it and I usually forget why or how I understand things anyways since there are so many thousands of things to understand, it is easier just to memorize tables, and much quicker.

So I guess I am going to ask, is this wrong? Everyone else does it and they are all passing the class.

If this is wrong, then how the hell do I find the time to actually learn? I just spent 12 hours trying to grind out homework, learned nothing and got some homework done. I feel if I spent that time trying to understand the concepts I likely would have covered even less material.

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There have been many questions along these lines, for example here, here, here, here, and here. Personally, I don't think there is much use rehashing the things that have been said in the responses to these posts. –  Zev Chonoles Oct 14 '11 at 1:52
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I am also concerned that questions like these can border on being a blog post or a lament, with a "what am I doing wrong?" (or something similar) added at the end to try to make it appear as a question. But I would like to get others' input about this post before taking any action. –  Zev Chonoles Oct 14 '11 at 1:53
    
Some of those questions were fairly similar, but it sounds like I need to start over with math70, then 80, then 90, then college algebra and then trig again. –  user138246 Oct 14 '11 at 2:00
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The conclusion I've come to based on your participation here is that, yes, you do need to go back and do some earlier classes (I don't know what Math 70, 80, etc., are). You're trying to do calculus and you just don't have the preparation for it. Is there a counselor you can talk to? –  Gerry Myerson Oct 14 '11 at 3:15
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"I didn't [understanding the concepts] that was possible, and I still don't." To quote the Sage of the Dagobah swamp, "That is why you fail." –  Arturo Magidin Oct 14 '11 at 3:19
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closed as not a real question by Did, Hans Lundmark, Asaf Karagila, mixedmath, J. M. Oct 14 '11 at 13:44

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1 Answer

up vote 3 down vote accepted

"Wrong?" Depends. If your goal is just to get a class out of the way, check a box, and collect a diploma, then maybe you can "get by" by just memorizing a list of facts. However, if you do this in some sense you never learned any math.

Mathematics is all about connections between concepts and packaging ideas.

Trying to make it through math classes by sheer memorization of facts is ok when you're in elementary school learning your addition and multiplication tables. But by the time you hit a second or third semester of calculus this is almost impossible. There are just too many possibilities to keep track of. Not to say you can't pass most elementary calculus courses on memorization and partial credit.

To learn you must "do". But just limping through problems half copying examples out of notes is of limited helpfulness. You might do well to find a tutor who really knows his/her stuff. Work through problems asking "What is my overall strategy?" "How is this like other problems I've solved?" "Why did I need to do steps 1,2,3?" What does each step mean?"

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I don't know what a good tutor is, but I haven't found one that is any better than any of them. I use tutors but mostly I just forget what I learned. I know it is important to understand concepts, I just don't see that as a viable options as there is no time for that. –  user138246 Oct 14 '11 at 1:57
    
If you have access to math grad students, they sometimes make the best teachers/tutors. If you're at a smaller college, try camping out in your professor's office :) –  Bill Cook Oct 14 '11 at 1:59
    
No access to math grads, I go to the office hours every day I have class but he is very busy so I do not have much time to actually learn and I am never sure what to ask him. I understand all the concepts fine. –  user138246 Oct 14 '11 at 2:02
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