As we get closer and closer to the end of the academic year, a lot of math students will be studying for exams. Some of these tests are comprehensive exams that cover everything from day one to the day before the test. I believe that as tutors, we need to help those we teach with ditching old, faulty study habits in favor of successful, incremental approaches.
What is the biggest bad study habit you might ask? Cramming...
Cramming, at best, will help students remember the material the day of the test and promptly forget it the next or, at worst, actually degrade their academic performance.
Researchers at UCLA have found that excessive "cramming" actually makes students perform worse on average than those who adopted daily study habits. This was published in the Journal of Child Development in 2012. In another study conducted by Time.com in 2011, the average student who crammed for the exam only passed with an average grades. We don't want those we teach to be "average", do we? We want them to excel!
Furthermore, there are many negative impacts on health as a result of cramming. Loss of sleep is the worst of them all. It's hard to take a test tired. There's also anxiety because of how shaky they might feel with the material. Students have also reported that they don't eat well, they feel isolated, and they feel depressed after an intense cramming session. I've crammed before and I'm here to tell ya, this is exactly my experience. I feel sick before the test, not ready to tackle it.
So you may be asking, what's the alternative? It's actually pretty simple. We don't cram for our driving exam. We don't cram to learn how to tie our shoes. We simply expose ourselves to it every day. This is exactly the approach I apply to my own college life. If I have an assignment that is due in 5 days, I break it up into 5 equal sections and do it daily. It works wonders. When the day before a test rolls around, I'm not reaching for the coffee, I'm reaching for a pillow and a good nights sleep.
We should encourage and empower those we teach to work with problems every day. Especially those that they don't feel particularly comfortable solving. Try it. See how it works for you and let me know.