By Sarah Rose Cavanagh, Chronicle of Higher Education
Consider a student in an introductory math class — let’s call him Alex. Alex had some unpleasant experiences with math in high school. When he got to college, he tested into a math course below the level that would count toward his general-education requirements. He is thus feeling wary about the semester, and resents having to “waste” expensive college credit on a course that he is unlikely to enjoy and that won’t get him any closer to his degree.
To have any hope of learning the material, Alex needs to actually involve himself in the course. He needs to direct his attention to the lecture and the problem sets. He must be willing to use his working memory to attempt solutions rather than daydream about his life outside the small windowless room full of equations. He needs to decide the information is important enough to commit to memory and then be motivated to grapple with it later, on his own time, to prepare for the exams. Continue reading.