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When A Class is Too Hard

Sarah was dreading her math class. She’d already failed algebra once and she didn’t see how taking it again was going to make things any better. She knew she had to pass to graduate and she had to have a good grade to get into college, but she just didn’t understand math.

mormon educationHer friend Mark saw her staring at her math book looking depressed. He asked what was wrong and she admitted to him her worries about the class. Mark had good grades in all his classes, so she didn’t see how he’d be able to understand her problem. School seemed to be naturally easy for him.

“It’s not naturally easy for me. Actually, I’m not very good at math either,” he said.

Sarah looked at him in surprise. “But you always get an A.

“Well, it isn’t because I’m good at math. It’s because I knew a few tricks.”

Sarah was interested in learning some tricks, but as Mark explained them to her, she realized he wasn’t taking short cuts. He was working harder at math than she was. He offered to help her with the class if she’d agree to follow his plan. In a few months, she began seeing results and was able to pass the class with a good grade.

Very few students are naturally good at every school subject. Students who get good grades in every subject aren’t just lucky. They’re nearly always working harder than other students to get that grade. They’ve mastered not just the subject matter, but the art of learning. Following are some strategies to improve your grade in any subject.

  1. Let the teacher know at the very start that you aren’t very good at the subject and ask for advice. Most teachers know what you need to do to do well in their class. Most will also offer extra help, which you should always take.
  2. Get a tutor. This can be someone your family hires or it can be a friend. If a friend helps you, trade services. Maybe you can offer a plate of homemade cookies for each tutoring session. If you’re good at another subject your friend struggles with, you can trade tutoring.
  3. Set up a study group. Often, studying a hard subject is easier and more fun in a group. Gather a small group of hard-working friends to get together a few times a week to help each other out. Make sure you really do work before you socialize and don’t let the helping turn into cheating. Each person needs to do his own work.
  4. Do more than is required. If your math teacher only requires you to do the odd-numbered problems for homework, do all of them. Do them two or three times if you need to. The more you repeat something, the easier it becomes.
  5. Make flash cards. Flash cards are an easy way to memorize facts. Start by learning two or three of the flashcards. Then add a new one. Continue gradually adding new questions until you’ve mastered all the material.
  6. Connect the material to something you’re good at or interested in. Fractions might seem hard unless you think of them in terms of cooking. History might seem dull until you decide to also study the fashions of the time. Once you’ve found an angle you’re interested in, you’ll learn faster and enjoy the class more.
  7. Study the hardest subject first, when you’re fresh. Save your favorite subject for last, as a reward for a good study session.
  8. Set a timer and take regular breaks. While the timer is going, though, stay focused, no matter how bored or frustrated you feel. You won’t feel more like it later, so just get it done.

A Mormon Quote About Education

We encourage our youth in every country to get an education. Even if at times it seems hopeless. With determination and faith in the Lord, you will be blessed with success. It is a dream well worth pursuing. (See Boyd K. Packer, “‘To Be Learned Is Good If …’,” Ensign, Nov 1992, 71)