Note that this
section contains some general tips on making the most out of your
homework. The next section contains tips
on actually working homework problems.
- Understand the Purpose of Homework. Instructors do not give you homework
assignments to make your life miserable (well some might, but most don’t!). Homework assignments are given to help
you to learn the material in the class and to develop good reasoning and
problems solving skills.
Mathematics is just not a subject that most people will instantly
understand every single topic after hearing the instructors
lecture. Most people need to work
on some problems in order to really start to understand the topic. That is the point of the homework. It gives you a set of problems that will
help you to understand the topics.
Remember that it almost always seems easier to watch an instructor doing
problems on the board than it actually is.
You won’t know if you truly understand the material and can do the
problem if you don’t attempt the homework.
- Have The Actual Assignment. This may seem like a silly tip, but
make sure that you accurately write down the assignment and due date. This is one of the more common mistakes
that students make with homework.
- Do the Assignment Promptly. You should always do the assignment as
soon after the lecture as possible while the lecture is still fresh in
your mind. Do not wait until the
last minute to do the whole assignment when comments made by the
instructor are no longer fresh in your mind.
Often these little asides that an instructor makes won’t seem
important at the time, but when it comes time to doing the homework the
reason for making the comment will become clear.
- Be Organized. When you start working on homework make
sure that you’ve got all the materials that you’ll need to do the homework
such as notes and textbook.
- Review. Go back over the lecture for each
section and review any examples that the instructor worked to make sure
that you understand the ideas from that section. Make note of any common errors that your
instructor may have mentioned. Do
the same with the text book. Read
the section and note examples worked and common errors mentioned in the
One of the biggest roadblocks in doing homework that I’ve seen in many
students is that they completely ignore the notes and/or text. They look at a problem and if they can’t
see how to do it they give up and go to the next problem. Often there will be a similar problem in
the notes and/or text that can help you to get started!
- Read/Follow the Directions. Make sure that you read and follow all
the directions for both the homework set and the individual problems.
- Be Neat. Make sure that you write neatly. This will help the instructor as he/she
is grading the assignment and you when you are going over the assignment
in preparation for an exam.
- Show All Work. Make sure that you show all of your
work. Do not just give the answer. Many instructors will not accept
homework that consists only of answers and no work. Also, do not skip large chunks of the
work. Instructors aren’t mind
readers and so they won’t know how you got from Step 1 to Step 3 unless
you also show Step 2. This is also
important if you made a mistake in Step 2.
If the instructor can’t determine how you got from Step 1 to Step 3
you’re liable to lose far more points than you would have lost for the
error in Step 2 had you shown it.
Showing your work will also help you when you are reviewing for the exam.
- Check Your Work. Always go back over your work and make
sure that you’ve not made any simple arithmetic/sign errors.