The ideal strategy is being conscientious as you learn anything new.  You want to think of this new information as a little “folder” with information on it and you’re trying to file it in what is essentially a “filing cabinet” in your brain.

For example, let’s say that you’re learning about circles.  Your homework covers perimeter and circumference.  The radius is 4 cm.  Our circumference is 2 x pi x radius, which equals 2 * pi * 4 cm = 8 pi cm.  Meanwhile, our area is pi x radius x radius, which equals pi * 4 cm * 4 cm = 16 pi cm squared.

radius and circumference of circle

A few noteworthy items here that you can think about to help you remember these important Math values and formulas:

  1. Notice that because you only wrote “cm” once for the circumference, the answer is in “cm” as your units while you multiplied “cm” x “cm” (writing “cm” twice) for the area, which makes the answer in “cm squared” units (or “cm²”).
  2. Note that you use a “π” and an “r” and a “2” for the formulas of both the circumference and the area of a circle.  However, one of them has pi x r x 2 and one of them has pi x r x r.  How one might remember that the area is the one with pi * radius * radius while the circumference is the one with pi * radius * 2  simply because the area of a circle will get much bigger faster as opposed to the circumference.  You can draw some circles and look at examples as well.  Also, the area covers two dimensions (cm * cm)while the circumference only covers one dimension (cm); hence, the area would definitely get bigger faster and so it would make sense that the radius would get squared (exponential growth) as opposed to multiplied by a constant of 2 (linear growth).

You also may sometimes have to think of a funny story or anecdote to help you remember.  Back in Freshman year of high school, I had a terrific Spanish teacher named Senorita Erbes and she would have her students choose a verb and a funny story in English.  The one that stood out the most and that garnered a big laugh when the student stood up to share was the verb “merecer” , which means “to deserve.”  The student said: “Mary stole an ice cream from the convenience store because she said she deserved it.”  It was funny — even though stealing is of course morally wrong!  However, 20+ years later and I remember what that verb means because “Mary” sounds somewhat like “merecer” and because it’s an interesting, colorful, or otherwise memorable anecdote.

Take your time, turn off all interruptions, and try to ingest new information this way.  I promise that your performance academically and on standardized exams will thank you!

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