Frequently Asked Questions

Study Questions

How should I study for a math/stats course?

How should I prepare for a math/stats exam?

When and where can I get help on the course?

Missed and Late Work Issues

Policy on late online assignments

I submitted an MSAF. What do I do now?


How should I study for a math or stats course?

Never miss a lecture or tutorial. If you miss a lecture, it is estimated that it will take you twice as long to learn the material that you missed. In addition, once you learn it on your own, you will only understand it half as well. So missing a lecture essentially quadruples the work needed to understand the missed work (and I don't think that anyone has this much spare time to waste). Getting the class notes from someone will make up very little of the missed lecture. Only about 1/4 of what is said in a lecture is written down on the board. Therefore by just getting the notes, you are missing 3/4 of what is said in the lecture, i.e., you are missing all of the explanations needed to help you to learn the material.

After each lecture (the same day or night of the lecture), read over your notes, and also read the corresponding sections in the book and try 3 or 4 of the problems given at the end of the section. I am not talking about reading the notes like a novel. Instead you have to carefully study the notes (and the corresponding section in the textbook) to make sure that you understand what is being done. Never leave this to another day. It is important to do it the same day because then the lecture will be fresh in your mind, and your reading will reinforce what you have learned in the lecture which will make it more likely that you will remember it. If you don't do this the same day of the lecture, then likely you will forget much of what was done in the lecture, and you will essentially have to reteach the material to yourself at a later time, which is not a good idea for the reasons mentioned above.

Ask for Help (the same week) if after doing #2 above, you still don't understand certain things. Bring your questions to the problem session that week, or to any of the TA office hours that week, or to the Math Help Centre hours that week (see the links on the main course page) or to the instructor office hours that week. If you need even more help than that, then you might benefit by getting a personal tutor (links given on the main course page) immediately (and not just the week before the test or exam when it is too late). Always get these questions answered the same week. If you leave them to the following week, then you will also have a whole new set of problems that week that you will need answered, and very quickly so many questions pile up that you won't have time to get them all answered.

Do all of the suggested problems given on the course web site as we cover the material in class. Don't let this wait until the day before the test (when it is too late to learn the material properly). The suggested problems are similar to the questions that will be asked on the tests, and they are meant to show you where you might need more work. Therefore, if you can't do some of the questions initially, then after getting help on those questions you should do a few more questions of that type to make sure that you fully understand them. Never look at a solution in the solutions manual, or a solution explained to you by a TA or tutor, and conclude that you can now do the question. Hopefully after looking at the solutions manual or hearing an explanation, you understand how someone else did the question. But for a test or exam, you have to know whether or not you can do a question of that type on your own. This is why it is especially important to try more questions from the book that are similar to a question that you could not do initially on your own.

How should I prepare for a math or stats exam?

When most people study for a test, they do the suggested problems and sample test problems with their notes, the textbook, and the solutions manual in front of them. When they cannot get a question or get a question wrong, they then read the solutions manual or look at the answers to find out where they went wrong or to find out how a certain question is done, and then conclude that they can now do that question. Once they have completed all questions in this manner, they then conclude that they can do all of the problems and are ready for the test.

The problem with the above approach is that you don't get marks on a test for getting questions wrong and then understanding after why you got them wrong. You don't get marks on a test for reading someone else's solution and understanding it. The test is not a reading comprehension test. You also don't have your textbook, notes, or the answers to consult while writing a test. But this is all that you have practiced doing! The only thing that you can conclude after studying in the above manner is that you are good at getting questions wrong, and then understanding after why you got them wrong, and you are good at reading someone else's solution and understanding what they did, but only if you have the notes, textbook, and answers to consult, and only if you don't have the pressure of a time limit. What you need to do is be able to produce the reasoning that produced the solution that you read and understood. You also need to have the technical skill to carry out the algebraic manipulations required to get a question right once you have produced the reasoning that tells you how to proceed with the solution. And you need to be able to do all of this under test conditions!

So here is what you should do. Do all of the suggested problems in the above manner. It is a good start. Then when you feel that you are ready for the test, pick 20 questions randomly from the practice test (assuming that the test consists of 20 questions), and get a timer and set it for 75 minutes (assuming that the test is 75 minutes). Then sit at an empty desk with only the questions and a pen and pencil and start the stopwatch. When the time is up, mark the test. For each question that you got wrong, find 3 or 4 similar problems in the textbook and do them. Do NOT simply find the questions that you got wrong, find out where you went wrong, and then conclude that you can do all of the questions, or that you are now ready for the test. If you do this then you have not read and understood what I have told you so far!! After doing 3 or 4 similar questions from the book for each of the 20 questions that you got wrong on your practice test you should then repeat the above procedure but with a new 20 randomly selected questions.

Keep doing this until you are happy with your mark. Then you will have a realistic view of the percentage of questions that you were able to get right before the test. Then deduct 5-10% from your mark on the practice test, and this is what you should expect to get on the actual test. The 5-10% reduction is due to the added pressure of real test conditions, rather than simulated test conditions. Therefore, if you want to get 80% on the actual test, you should not consider yourself ready untily you have followed the above procedure and achieved a mark of at least 90% on the 20 randomly selected questions, under the simulated test conditions.

How can I get help for this course?

Visit the Math Help Centre. Free tutoring for all first-year math courses is available. You would be crazy not to use it!

Ask your TA, who will have posted office hours in the Math Help Centre, and will also reply to email (Although not at arbitrary times at night!).

Visit your instructor in office hours. This is time the instructor puts aside to help you. Why are you not there?

Ask a friend in the same course to listen to you talk through a problem; you often find your mistakes by explaing it to someone else.

If the above resources are not enough, you can engage a private tutor. Some names are available on the Math and Stats department list and through SSC. See the Contacts & Links page for all the details.

My computer crashed as I was about to submit my assignment/lab!

There is an automatic extension of the submission deadline until 12:00noon on the following day with the following conditions:

You don't have to request this extension. We are using the honor system.

Any students found to be systematically abusing this honor system by repeatedly submitting late assignments or labs will be given a grade of ZERO on ALL late assignments and labs. The meaning of "systematic", "abuse" and "repeatedly" is up to our sole discretion, and our decision to give zero is final and cannot be appealed for any reason.

Asking your instructor how many late assignments or labs you can submit without getting zero on all late assignments and labs constitutes an abuse of the system, and will result in a grade of zero on all late assignments and labs.

Asking your instructor if you will get a zero if you submit another late assignment or lab consitutes an abuse of the system, and will result in a grade of zero on all late assignments and labs.

Explaining to your instructor the reason that you submitted an assignment or lab late and how it should not count towards your number of late assignments or labs submitted constitutes an abuse of the system, and will result in a grade of zero on all late assignments and labs.

Submitting an assignment or lab late constitutes an acceptance of all of the above conditions.

If you don't like the above policy or its conditions, and don't want to risk getting zero on late assignments or labs, but still want protection against the possibility of a computer crash or other technical problems then you can do the following:

Plan to submit your assignment or lab by 12:00 noon on the due date (11 hours and 59 minutes before the 11:59pm deadline).

If your computer crashes or you have any other technical problem then give yourself an extension until 11:59pm on that same day.

I submitted an MSAF. What do I do now?

Check the online sytem for recording marks. If the MSAF has been received, the word "note" will appear in place of your mark. If it has not appeard within one week, send your instructor an email with the date on which you filled out the MSAF. If the word "note" does appear, there is no need to do anything. The MSAF system will send you an email telling you to contact your professor about arranging make-up work. You do not need to do this. For a missed assignment or lab, unless a significant number are missed, the weight will be automatically redistributed to the other assignments and labs. For a missing midterm, the weight will be redistributed to the final exam.

   Many thanks to Aaron Childs and Deidre Haskell for help and ideas for this page.