Good at Math?

What does it mean to be good at mathematics? Certainly one would say that a student who earns a good grade is likely more capable than a student who earns a poor one. But what characteristics does a good mathematics student have that a poorer one does not? And, are there differences within the students who earn good grades? While this list is in no way comprehensive and may be debated even among teachers, here are some of the characteristics I have observed in students who understand mathematics well. They tend to

Of course, very few of us consistenly do/are all of these things all of the time. There are plenty of students who earn good grades, especially in 100 and 200-level mathematics courses, despite not fitting the description above in a number of ways. But if you are willing to “press on toward the goal,” then you should consider how you might become more like these ideal mathematics students. To make things more concrete, here are some specific questions that you should grapple with throughout the semester. While the specific day-to-day skills of the course are to be mastered, your current/future enjoyment and success in mathematics courses is equally dependent upon growth in the areas listed above. Do not expect this growth to occur just by doing what is required of you in the course. It is likely possible to earn good marks in the course and still answer “No” to the above questions at semester's end. If you really wish to become mathematically adept, however, you should begin immediately to think creatively about how you can structure your study habits so that your answers are increasingly “Yes”. Here are some ideas the professor has which may be helpful.

This page maintained by: Thomas L. Scofield
Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Calvin College

Last Modified: Friday, 03-Sep-2004 15:03:32 EDT