Some Suggestions for Reading a Mathematics Text

Reading mathematics is an acquired skill. As the term goes on, you should find that reading the text becomes easier and more rewarding. Here are a few suggestions.
  • Expect to spend 30 to 60 minutes before class for each reading assignment. You may not completely understand everything in the section, but the class meetings will be much more meaningful and the homework will be much easier for you if you have spent time with the reading.
  • Expect to re-read. A mathematics text is not light reading, so you should expect that it will take several passes through a section before you absorb the material. After we have disussed a section in class, go back and re-read the section -- Many points will be much clearer.
  • Be sure you understand the keywords. If you are unsure on some of the terminology, use the index to find where a term is defined.
  • Read with a pencil and paper in hand. You learn mathematics by doing. When the text asks you to check the calculations and graphs, Do it!
  • Reflect on what you have read. Every so often, stop and think about what you have read, how it fits in with past material, and where you think it is going.
  • Keep this list handy. Print this list out and use it as a bookmark in your text. Re-read it every few weeks.
  • If you feel the assignments are taking you too long, please come see me. The point of the reading is to help you learn the course material. If you feel that they have become an obstacle, then we should address that issue. 

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Written by Tommy Ratliff, Wheaton College