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The Day of the Exam: 15 Tips to Boost your Exam Performance

stressSo you have come all the way and tomorrow is finally the moment of truth, the day of the exam. At this stage you have studied almost all that you can study to be 100% ready for the big day. You have been planning, revising and studying and so there is little more you can do, right?

However hard you studied in the run up to exams, the most important work is yet to be done. Regardless of how much you have studied, it is possible that your exam performance may not reflect your hard work studying for hours on end. That is why we want to give you a few tips to maximise your performance on the day of the exam.

15 Tips for Succeeding on the Day of the Exam:

Exam Tip #1

Wake up early so that you do not need to rush through having breakfast and getting ready.

Exam Tip #2

Check the venue and time of the exam to make sure that you have not confused the day/time/venue.

Exam Tip #3

Have a balanced breakfast and eat nothing risky (probably not the best day to have a super-hot curry!). Bananas are always a good option.

Exam Tip #4

Before leaving home, check that you have everything that you will need – ID, stationery, map to the exam venue, etc.

Exam Tip #5

Head to the exam with plenty of time. A lot of unexpected events can happen on your way there and you do not want to be late!

Exam Tip #6

If there are people around who are panicking, avoid them. They are not doing you any favour!

Exam Tip #7

Go to the toilet before the exam starts. Exams can be quite long and there is no time to waste.

Exam Tip #8

Remember to write your name on the exam paper. You would not believe how many people have forgotten to do it!

Exam Tip #9

Read all the questions carefully before starting and quickly plan how much time to allocate to each.

Exam Tip #10

Start answering the questions that you feel most confident about. There is no need to answer the questions in order.

Exam Tip #11

If your brain freezes, just start writing anything and you will soon start remembering more details.

Exam Tip #12

Don’t spend more time than you planned on a particular section/question or you might run out of time to answer other questions and gain those extra marks! Also,  leave any questions that you are unsure about for the end.

Exam Tip #13

Don’t be afraid to ask the examiner if you are not clear on a question.

Exam Tip #14

Use every minute of the exam and if you have time left, review your answers before handing back the paper.

Exam Tip #15

Stay calm, you have done your homework. Do you BEST and LEAVE the rest to GOD!

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Four Habits of Highly Effective Math Teaching

If you were asked what were the most important principles in mathematics teaching, what would you say? I wasn’t really asked, but I started thinking and came up with these basic habits or principles that can keep your math teaching on the right track.

  • Habit 1: Let It Make Sense
  • Habit 2: Remember the Goals
  • Habit 3: Know Your Tools
  • Habit 4: Living and Loving Math

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Habit 1: Let It Make Sense

Let us strive to teach for understanding of mathematical concepts and procedures, the “why” something works, and not only the “how”.

This understanding, as I’m sure you realize, doesn’t always come immediately. It may take even several years to grasp a concept. For example, place value is something children understand partially at first, and then that deepens over a few years.

This is why many math curricula use spiraling: they come back to a concept the next year, the next year, and the next. This can be very good if not done excessively (for 5-6 years is probably excessive).

However, spiraling has pitfalls also: if your child doesn’t get a concept, don’t blindly “trust” the spiraling and think, “Well, she gets it the next year when the book comes back around to it.”

The next year’s schoolbook won’t necessarily present the concept at the same level – the presentation might be too difficult. If a child doesn’t “get it”, they might need very basic instruction for the concept again.

The “how” something works is often called procedural understanding: the child knows how to work long division or knows the procedure for fraction addition. It is often possible to learn the “how” mechanically without understanding why something works. Procedures learned this way are often forgotten very easily.

The relationship between the “how” and the “why” – or between procedures and concepts – is complex. One doesn’t always come totally before the other, and it also varies from child to child. And, conceptual and procedural understanding actually help each other: conceptual knowledge (understanding the “why”) is important for the development of procedural fluency, while fluent procedural knowledge supports the development of further understanding and learning.

Try alternating the instruction: teach how to add fractions, and let the student practice. Then explain why it works. Go back to some practice. Back and forth. Sooner or later it should ‘stick’ – but it might be next year instead of this one, or after 6 months instead of this month.

As a rule of thumb, don’t totally leave a topic until the student both knows “how” and understands the “why”.

Tip: you can often test a student’s understanding of a topic by asking him to produce an example, preferably with a picture or other illustration: “Tell me an example of multiplying a fraction by a whole number, and draw a picture of it.” Whatever gets produced can tell the teacher a lot about what has been understood.


Habit 2: Remember the Goals

What are the goals of your math teaching? Are they…

  • to finish the book by the end of school year
  • make sure the kids pass the test …?

Or do you have goals such as:

  • My student can add, simplify, and multiply fractions
  • My student can divide by 10, 100, and 1000.

These are all just “subgoals”. But what is the ultimate goal of learning school mathematics?

Consider these goals:

  • Students need to be able to navigate their lives in this ever-so-complex modern world.
    This involves dealing with taxes, loans, credit cards, purchases, budgeting, and shopping. Our youngsters need to be able to handle money wisely. All that requires a good understanding of parts, proportions, and percents.
  • Another very important goal of mathematics education as a whole is to enable the students to understand information about us. In today’s world, this includes quite a bit of scientific information. Being able to read through it and make sense of it requires knowing big and small numbers, statistics, probability, and percents.
  • And then one more. We need to prepare our students for further studies in math and science. Not everyone ultimately needs algebra, but many do, and teens don’t always know what profession they might choose or end up with.
  • I’d like to add one more broad goal of math education: teaching deductive reasoning. Of course, high school geometry is a good example of this, but when taught properly, other areas of school math can be as well.
  • Then one more goal that I personally feel fairly strongly about: let students see some beauty of mathematics and to learn to like it, or at the very least, make sure they don’t feel negative about mathematics.

The more you can keep these big real goals in mind, the better you can connect your subgoals to them. And the more you can keep the goals and the subgoals in mind, the better teacher you will be.

For example, adding, simplifying, and multiplying fractions all connect with the broader goal of understanding parts or part and whole relationships. It will soon lead to ratios, proportions, and percent. Also, all fraction operations are a necessary basis for solving rational equations and for the operations with rational expressions (in an algebra course).

Tying in with the goals, remember that the BOOK or CURRICULUM is just a tool to achieve the goals — not a goal in itself. Don’t ever be a slave to any math book.


Habit 3: Know Your Tools

A math teacher’s tools are quite numerous nowadays.

First of all, of course, comes a black or whiteboard, or paper – something to write on, pencil, compass, protractor, ruler, eraser.
And the book you’re using.

Then we also have computer software, animations and activities online, animated lessons and such.

There are workbooks, fun books, worktexts, online texts.

Then all the manipulatives, abacus, measuring cups, scales, algebra tiles, and so on. And then there are games, games, games.

The choices are so numerous it’s daunting. What’s a teacher to do?

Well, you just have to start somewhere, probably with the basics, and then add to your “toolbox” little by little as you have the opportunity.

There is no need to try ‘hog’ it all at once. It’s important to learn how to use any tool you might acquire. Quantity won’t equal quality. Knowing a few “math tools” inside out is more beneficial than a mindless dashing to find the newest activity to spice up your math lessons.

Basic tools

  1. The board and/or paper to write on. Essential. Easy to use.
  2. The book or curriculum. Choosing a math curriculum is often difficult for homeschoolers. Check my curriculum pages for some help. Two things to keep in mind:
    1. No matter what book you’re using, YOU as the teacher have the control. Don’t be a slave to the curriculum. You can skip pages, rearrange the order in which to teach the material, supplement it, and so on.
    2. Don’t despair if the book you’re using doesn’t seem to be the perfect choice for your student. You can quite likely sell it on homeschool swap boards and buy some other one.
  3. Manipulatives are physical objects the student manipulates with his hands to get a better grasp of some concept.I once saw a question asked by a homeschooling parent, on the lines, “What manipulatives must I use and when?” The person was under the impression that manipulatives are a “must”.Manipulatives are definitely stressed in these days. They are usually very recommendable, but they’re not the final goal of math education, and there is no need to over-emphasize them. The goal is to learn to do the math without them.

    Some very helpful manipulatives are:

    • a 100-bead basic abacus
    • base ten blocks or something to illustrate tens & ones in kindergarten and first grade. I made my daughter “tea-bags” by putting marbles into little plastic bags, and they worked perfectly for teaching place value.
    • some kind of fraction manipulatives. You can simply make pie models out of cardboard.

    Often, drawing pictures can take place of manipulatives, especially after the first elementary grades.

  4. Geometry and measuring tools, such as ruler, compass, protractor, scales, and measuring cups. These are of course essential teaching tools. (Note though that dynamic geometry software can in these days replace compass and ruler constructions done on paper and actually be even better.)


Habit 4: Living and Loving Math

You are the teacher. You show the way – also with your attitudes, your way of life.

Do you use math often in your daily life? Is using mathematical reasoning, numbers, measurements, etc. a natural thing to you every day?

And then: do you like math? Love it? Are you happy to teach it? Enthusiastic?

Both of these tend to show up in how you teach, but especially so in a homeschooling environment, because at home you’re teaching your children a way of life and whether math is a natural part of it or not.

Math is not a drudgery, nor something just confined to math lessons.

Some ideas:

  • Let it make sense. This alone can usually make quite a difference and students will stay interested.
  • Read through some fun math books, such as Theoni Pappas books or puzzle books. Get to know some interesting math topics besides just schoolbook arithmetic. There are lots of storybooks (math readers) that teach math concepts.
  • Consider including some math history if you have the time.
  • When you use math in your daily life, explain how you’re doing it, and include the children if possible. Figure it out together.

I hope these ideas will help you in your math teaching!

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Family – How To Teach Your Child To Develop Good Study Skills

You can help your child develop good study skills by encouraging her to become better organized helping her to take better notes, and communicating with her teacher.
In order for children to excel in school, they must develop good study skills. Parents can do much to thankful kidsencourage their child to become more organized and more proficient in their academic work. If you help your child develop good study skills when they are young, those skills should help them through the rest of their academic career.

Parents should start instilling good study habits with their children as early as elementary school, and there are several things that you can do to help your child become a better student. One of the most important steps you can take is to help your child develop a good study schedule.

Some children like to come straight home, do their homework, and then play. Other children, especially those who are learning disabled, may need a break between their school day and homework. This is perfectly acceptable as long as you do not let them put off their school work until almost bedtime, when they will be tired and are likely to do lesser quality work.

Children who have attention deficit disorders may need to work on their homework in short increments of time. If your child has a learning disability, you may want to let her work on one assignment for about fifteen or twenty minutes, then let her move on to something else. She can come back and finish after a short break.

Be sure that you have a specific place set aside for your child to do her homework. It should be free from distractions such as the television, computer, video games, etc. Although your child may have a desk in her room, if she is younger, she may benefit more from working near you. If she is in the kitchen, dining room, or living room, you can easily check to see that she is remaining on task and give her help when she needs it.

Once you have established a routine and place for her to work, you need to help her get organized. Teachers will typically assign what type of notebook and other school supplies they want their students to have. It is very important that you initiate communication with your child’s teacher as soon as possible. Many teachers will willingly give their school e-mail address, and this is an excellent way for you to stay in contact.

If your teacher has not assigned a specific system of organization that she prefers, you will need to help your child develop one of her own. Make sure she has a notebook with pocket dividers. If she has several classes, she may want to have two or three notebooks that she can divide into classes. The pocket dividers will give her a place to put any handouts she may receive. Check her notebook periodically to see what work she is doing.

If your child is having trouble completing assignments, you can make a simple check sheet that lists such things as “homework assigned today”; “no homework today”; “study for test”, etc. Leave a line beside each notation, and ask your child’s teacher to check off anything that might pertain to your child for that day. Be sure and check the assignment sheet every day. If your child knows you will hold her accountable, she will learn to be more responsible.

Your child needs to develop good note-taking skills. Help her learn how to find the main point and supporting details of textbook chapters. Show her how to list the chapter and section names of her textbook, and then have her summarize each section in her own words. You can help her study by asking her to tell you key points from each section or from her study sheets. If she can’t answer it the first time, have her look over it again, and then quiz her.

Finally, encourage your child every step of the way. Not every student is an “A” student, but you should let your child know that you are proud of her if she is doing her best work.