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17Calculus Article - Common Learner Mistakes

17Calculus
Single Variable Calculus
Derivatives
Integrals
Multi-Variable Calculus
Precalculus
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7 Most Common Learner Mistakes - Scott H. Young

One of our favorite bloggers, Scott H. Young, has an article about the 7 most common mistakes learners make. Three of them, especially, can affect how well you learn math.
1. Memorizing What Needs To Be Understood
2. Not Enough Practice
7. Not Being Interested in What You Learn

For starters, it helps to be aware of mistakes or things you do that either hinder or do not help learning. This article not only points out a few of them but also gives some good suggestions on how to correct the mistakes. A few comments are in order.

1. Memorizing What Needs To Be Understood
This is a good one because many people are not aware that memorizing and learning are two different things. Memorizing will get the concept and equations into your head only temporarily. Learning will get the concept deep and the equations will flow naturally out of what you know. It feels like the material is actually in your bones, not just in your head. Learning makes things harder to forget than when memorizing. However, we believe that memorizing has its place when learning. See the memorize to learn page for more information.

2. Not Enough Practice
We often comment here at 17Calculus about needing lots of practice. We are firm believers in getting practice. Practice is how the concepts move from your head into your bones and become rooted there. Scott mentions some misconceptions of studying like this.
'Going to class isn’t practice. Highlighting a textbook isn’t practice. Rereading notes isn’t practice. These activities may be useful, to a point, but your learning generally suffers when you spend most of your time on them instead of practicing.'
These activities are where students spend most of their time and they become unproductive after a certain point.

7. Not Being Interested in What You Learn
Many people think that being interested in something is innate, i.e. we are born to like some subjects and not others. This is a fallacy. People do tend to have preferences of some subjects over others but actually being interested in things is a choice. And it is not an all or nothing issue, i.e. being interested in things is on a continuum or range and we can choose to be in the range. Even within a subject, there will some material that we are more interested in. The point is, we can make that choice.
Also, think about why you don't like something. Is it because it is hard? Sometimes, in the process of learning, we come across a topic that we find especially difficult and, if we are not prepared, we can end up not liking it only because it is difficult. Mastering something difficult can be extremely rewarding but the frustration during the learning process can make it seem difficult. Use that frustration to help spur you on.

There are few other common mistakes that Scott discusses and he makes some good points in them. However, we do not completely agree with everything in the article by Scott. Scott separates perfectionism into short-term and long-term, labeling one bad and the other good. However, the goal of perfectionism can only produce frustration and defeat since it can never be attained. For many people, this is not a good balance. So we believe that all perfectionism is detrimental.

In the final analysis, Scott's article is a good read and he makes some great points. As always though, read everything with a critical eye and make sure it follows what you know and have experienced before agreeing or adopting any kind of study habit changes.

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