2009-01-09 / Columnists

Ken's Math Korner

Commentary By Ken Rochelle, MBA

Here are a few strategies I have found helpful. More tips are coming soon. Feel free to contact me if you would like to share some of your ideas.

I like to do a bit of meditation the night before and on the morning of a test. I just sit quietly and observe my breathing and thoughts, without any type of analyzing or direction. By doing this, I find the chatter in my mind will gradually diminish, leaving me better able to concentrate on the test.

Sometimes the best tips are tried and true. For example, I try to get to bed a little early the night before an important test. It may take a while to fall asleep, but it is much better for me to be in bed reading something light or listening to some relaxing music, than to be watching TV or running around anxiously. Have some protein and complex carbohydrates the morning of your test, such as a ham and cheese omelet or a warm bowl of your favorite oatmeal, as this will fuel you up with the alertness and stamina you'll need for the challenge ahead. Careful with caffeine; you're probably jittery enough, and you could end up trading that jumpstart for a mid-exam crash!

Take a few deep, long breaths to clear your mind before you start your test. You don't have to instantly rip open your test booklet the moment you are told you may begin. Should you feel yourself getting overwhelmed during the test, simply look away from the book, or just close your eyes for a few moments, and take some deep, relaxing breaths.

Use all available scrap area to take notes. If you are permitted to write in your test booklets, do so. Underline key words in problems, fill in known information on diagrams, and write down anything else that will help you. If you are given scrap paper, use it. Write down anything that will help you solve the problem on which you are working.

Use all the time allotted for a test, unless you are absolutely certain that there is nothing more you can do. After finishing your test, close the book and think about something else for a few minutes. Sometimes when you return to the test with "fresh eyes" you'll catch errors that you didn't see before.

Now, about those calculators: If you are asked to add 20 + 30, and you type it into the calculator and it reads 382, use your common sense, if it doesn't feel right, it probably isn't. We're adding two numbers that are each smaller than 100. how could the answer be bigger than 200, let alone 300? By checking your answer, you'll catch many careless mistakes.

Sometimes even teachers make mistakes. Once while taking a test I ran into a question that just didn't make sense. Turned out, part of it had not copied clearly when my teacher ran off the tests. If something isn't clear on your test, just ask your teacher. There could be a technical problem with the printed material, or a problem may simply be poorly worded. Your teacher may be able to provide clarification so you can proceed with confidence.

Practice Questions: If 2 n+1 = 8, what is the value of n?

SAT Question: Of 60 students in a class 2/3 are girls, and 2/5 of the class are taking music lessons. What is the maximum number of girls that are not taking lessons?

Have something to say, contact Ken at kenrochelle@gmail.com. For the solution(s) visit www.kenthetutor.org.

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