In my first blog post back in December of 2014, I spoke of my intention to begin typesetting my homework using LaTeX. With much pride, I can say that I have done that. It was a recommended method for my discrete mathematics class. What is more, it seems downright necessary for my accelerated calculus class.
Without a doubt, the self-enforced requirement to write homework in LaTeX has contributed to greater success with assignments. My homework scores have increased significantly in both discrete mathematics (EECS 203) and accelerated calculus (MATH 186).
Contrasting this success is a failure to do well on exams. In EECS 203, MATH 186, and “Programming and Introductory Data Structures” (EECS 280), my scores have been below average by more than half of a standard deviation.
I have always been a fine test taker, and for that reason my lack of success has come as a surprise.
Recognizing this fact is one thing; responding to it is another. Are these results proof that I am not studying properly? Is a change in order?
I would think so. But what is there to change?
For one, I would not expect it to be my study habits. Over the course of my academic career, studying has mainly been an exercise in review: I review work I have done; read over notes I have taken. During high school, I did not spend very much time on such activities. Now, however, I devote far more time to review leading up to an exam. From the quantitative perspective, then, one could say that my studying habits have improved. What, then, is the problem?
To put it simply, I would say it is focus in lectures.
In high school, I was always attentive: listening to every word spoken by the teacher, scribbling down notes when I felt it was necessary.
College lectures have proven quite different. Rather than focus on the lecturer, I may instead focus on a computer screen a couple of rows in front of me. The attention to such things around me often times feel compulsive.
When I am able to shake off distractions from the environment, lectures prove difficult to follow. Often times the lecturer’s English is shaky, the concepts are unfamiliar, and the slides move too quickly for any substantial notes to be written.
Resolving this issue, though seemingly a momentous task, may be easier than previously thought. The wide range of reading materials, from textbooks to online slides, allow for instant access to materials that enhance my knowledge of the subject matter. A more in-depth and laborious examination of these materials seem to be the most likely approach for future success.
Indeed, the greatest way to improve is to have a greater sense of self-awareness. A rigorous examination of what it is that causes one to fail will indicate how improvements can be made.