Mid-Semester Math Check-in: Assess Your Progress and Improve Your Study Habits

October 12, 2023

As you enter the middle of the semester, it’s a great time to take a step back and think about how your classes are going. You might conclude that everything is going great, but you also might realize that your study strategy could benefit from some changes. 

In this article, we are going to focus on what this kind of reflection might look like for your math class—and what changes you might want to make.

The first step is to take a few minutes and ask yourself these questions:

One. How well am I understanding the material in the class?

To dig deeper into this question, you might consider the following:

  1. Are there concepts you feel like you don’t understand at all?
  2. Are there concepts where you can follow the general approach to getting the answer, but don’t know why any of it works?
  3. If the teacher presents a slight variation in the question or how it is worded, are you still comfortable solving it?
  4. If you look at tests/quizzes/classwork from the beginning of the semester, do you still remember the material and how to solve the problems?

Two. What is my grade in the class? 

Again, we’d recommend considering the following more detailed questions:

  1. Does your grade reflect your understanding of the material?
  2. Are there specific contributors to your grade (e.g. homework, quizzes, tests) where you feel you can do better?
  3. Are you happy with your current grade?

Next Steps

Sometimes your reflections will result in “Yes! Things are going great!” Of course, this is what we hope for! But, for students who aren’t happy, here are some common thoughts and a few practical next steps.

“I’m getting by…

 …My grades are ok and I’m passing the tests and quizzes, but I don’t really feel like I understand the material. If I go back and review the problems from the beginning of the semester, I might not remember the steps well enough to do them consistently, but I should be fine.”

This approach may have worked for past math classes, and depending on your situation it might continue to work in your current one. However, at some point there is likely to be a final, high school exit exam, standardized test, AP test—or even just a future unit in this class—that is going to expect you to remember and apply that older material. 

“Just getting by” often seems like it is working fine right up until it suddenly doesn’t. If you are ready to work toward understanding more than just enough to get by, a good first step is to start asking “why?”:  “Why are these the steps I need to take to solve this problem? Why does this work?” 

This deeper level of understanding will help you to remember concepts long term and also improve your ability to solve more challenging questions. If a question looks almost (but not quite) like one you know how to do, you are more likely to be able to understand the nuance of the harder question and solve it. 

It’s important to recognize that this is a mindset shift. It is not something where you can just flip a switch and suddenly understand everything. In addition, sometimes (at first, often) you will ask yourself  “why?” and come back with “I have no idea.” 

You might need to ask more questions in class or seek out resources outside of class. If you feel like it’s time to start asking “why?” and getting answers, working with a one-on-one expert math tutor might be the solution.

“I’m completely lost…

…and not sure I should even be in this class. My grades are terrible and I’m afraid I’m going to fail.”

That’s a stressful place to be, but it is early enough in the year that it is possible to recover! Your teacher almost certainly wants you to succeed in this class, even if it doesn’t always seem like it. Think about what is and isn’t working (and what has and hasn’t worked for you in your previous math classes).

Is this a situation where you didn’t have the foundation you needed and would benefit from having someone help you review material from last year? Are you just not clicking with the teacher? Does it feel like the class is moving too quickly? Are there things going on outside of class that are making it harder to complete your work and keep up?

Once you have some sense of what might help (or have concluded that you just really don’t know—that’s ok too!), it is time to ask for help.  A parent, your teacher, the school guidance counselor, a tutor or, likely, some combination of these resources can help you make a plan to get back on track and support you through that process. 

If you need support that your school can’t provide, one of our Program Directors can help you build the team that will help you succeed. 

“My grades don’t make sense…

…I study a lot and practically memorize my review sheets, but then my scores on the tests don’t seem to reflect how hard I’m working.”

As you progress in math, the number of questions that rely more heavily on problem solving and critical thinking skills (and less on memorization) increases. The questions will require you to apply concepts and ideas, not just work through the steps you have memorized. You are working hard, but as your classes change how they test the material, you also need to change how you study

Asking your teacher for advice on how to study for their tests is a great start—it’s one of the things they are there for! But, if their advice doesn’t work for you or you aren’t sure how to implement it effectively, a tutor can help.

“I’m overwhelmed…

…Sometimes I think I understand the material in class or on the homework, so I know I should be able to apply the concepts on a test. But then, when the test comes, it turns out I apparently don’t know the material as well as I thought.”

A good first step here is to go over your old tests, ideally with your teacher or a tutor, to work out where you are missing points. 

You might find that you don’t understand the material as well as you thought you did. In this case, try doing homework or review problems under something closer to testing conditions. See how much you can get done without referencing your notes, and when you do need to, pay close attention to which things you are looking up. 

Sometimes, you will discover that you do know the material, but that you are losing points for things like not showing enough work or giving sufficient explanations. That’s an easier fix, and likely just requires you to work a bit more slowly or carefully.

Sometimes it turns out that you understand the current material but are making mistakes on foundational material, either because you have gaps in your understanding or because you are working too quickly and not being as careful as you could be. 

Often it will turn out to be a combination of a few things. Once you know where you are missing points, you can work on adjusting your study process to improve them. 

Ask For Help and Build That Strong Skills Foundation!

Regardless of where you currently are, now is a great time to make tweaks to your studying to help you get to where you want to be. If you aren’t happy with how things are going, don’t wait until end-of-semester tests and deadlines are looming. The sooner you start making changes, the bigger their impacts can be! 

If you know you want to make changes and none of the situations we looked at here feel helpful, give us a call at (800) MY-TUTOR or schedule a call with a Program Director, who can help you figure out what kind of support would be the most useful in jumpstarting your math success.


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