(Adapted from "How to Succeed in Math 141" )

  1. This is no longer high school. Expect to work hard. In fact, expect to work extremely hard to achieve the same level of success as you did in high school. Most students were not challenged in high school. University instructors will try to extract from you your best.

  2. Start working from Day 1. Do the lab prep work. Review the course website and materials you received on the first day. Read the assigned materials for the first week (and subsequent weeks) ahead of time. It is especially easy for students who have had an earlier programming course to decide that they know this material and that they do not need to study it again. We will be moving at a much faster pace than in a high school course and we will expect that you understand more deeply the concepts we are teaching you about programming and about Computer Science as a field. Expect to see homework, quiz, and examination problems that are more difficult than you have seen before.

  3. Take responsibility for learning the course. This course moves fast. The instructor's responsibility is to set the pace, to provide the broad outlines, and to emphasize the main concepts and themes. It is not the instructor's function to "spoon feed" mouthfuls of material to be regurgitated on exams. The purpose of a university course is to force the student to think his/her way to a conceptual understanding of the material.

    In general your instructor will move through the course material at a rapid pace. You must keep up: they will not slow down to accommodate the lagging, and they may not notice that you are lagging. You must not suppose that there is a safety net under you which prevents you from failing. It will be your own hard work and commitment, and only that, which will keep you aloft.

    You will need to review your text and class notes outside of class. In general, computer science classes do not expect you to memorize defintions to repeat on an exam, or use your multiple guessing skills to do well on a test. Exams in this course expect that you will exercise your critical thinking and reasoning skills.

  4. Attend classes and recitations (and office hours, and review sessions, and any time extra help is offered). According to the adage, "half the battle is simply showing up". Do not fail to come to class. Do not postpone doing an assignment. Do not dodge a quiz or exam. You could be digging a deeper and deeper hole for yourself, out of which you may be unable to climb. Doing some problems on an assignment or quiz is better than doing none. Understanding half a lecture is better than not hearing it at all.

  5. Do the assignments! Not doing a lab assignment in this class can greatly impact your chances of doing well in this course. You are also encouraged to work with in-class examples outside of class to extend them or deepen your understanding of the concepts presented in class.

  6. Take this course seriously as a first step as a professional in your chosen field. From your first day at the University at Buffalo, you should think of yourself as a professional. If your chosen field is Computer Science or Computer Engineering, this is the first in a number of courses that will prepare you for a job in that field. You can learn important skills for your future employment in this course, or realize much later that you are lacking critical skills to help you succeed within your field.

  7. Prepare your work neatly and carefully. You are presenting your ideas. A sloppy presentation could indicate sloppy thinking, and a lack of concern. Such attitudes are unfavorable in university life as well as professional life.

  8. Seek help when you need it. Take advantage of your instructor's help and office hours. The instructor and the teaching assistant are the first resource to which you should turn for help. Office hours DO NOT require an appointment. You are always welcome at office hours and are not bothering the instructors during that time - we are happy to see you.

  9. ASK QUESTIONS! Lots of them. Ask them as often as you have them. Ask them multiple times until you understand the concept. Stop lecture to ask questions. Stop by office hours to ask questions. Don't leave a question unanswered.

"How to Succeed in Math 141" Web page created by Judith C. Gebera
This page last modified by Adrienne Decker (8/18/05)