Monday, August 19, 2013

Math Study

Summer vacation is waning fast, and it's time to get back to school.

For my first installment of the new school year, I'd like to talk a little bit about an aspect of test preparation that many people do not take seriously enough:  Sleep.

I know that some students take a very last-minute approach to preparing for tests (or finishing projects, or any number of other school-related activities).  I have been in this position myself, and it is quite stressful.

As {insert name of deadline here} approaches, people discover that they can't fit all of the things they should be doing into the amount of time that is available to them.  All too often, the thing that gets discarded is sleep.

I'm not going to go into the health issues associated with sleep deprivation... needless to say, you'll be healthier if you get enough sleep.  Also, there are the obvious safety concerns... sleep-deprived drivers can be just as dangerous as drunk drivers.

My goal here is to draw attention to the academic ramifications of missing out on sleep.

Personally, I think that students need to consider the type of academic activity they are preparing for when deciding how much sleep to cut out of their schedule.  Students need to understand that skipping sleep will affect their performance.  The goal is to find an acceptable trade-off between needed preparation and lower performance quality.

Some activities do not require much performance.  For example, if a big project is due then the student only needs to be able to stumble into the classroom and turn the project in.  Students can afford to miss more sleep in a situation like this.

However, if the student will be required to present his/her project to the class (and will be graded on the presentation) then more sleep is advised.  It doesn't make much sense to stay up all night to enhance the quality of a project if the presentation ends up being terrible.

When preparing for a test, there is typically a point at which the loss of brain power due to sleep deprivation outweighs the benefits of more cramming.  Continuing to stay awake beyond this point does more damage than good.

This gets a bit tricky because different people need different amounts of sleep.  Therefore, I can't possibly prescribe a last-minute cramming strategy that will work for everyone...

...and I guess that's the real point of this post:  If you plan ahead and don't procrastinate, then you won't have to worry about staying up and losing a significant amount of sleep the night before a big presentation or exam.

My latest Silly Math Song was inspired by this concept:

If you are a student, parent, or teacher, I hope you have a wonderful school year.

For math tutorials and silly math songs, visit

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