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Practice Makes Perfect

It is a cliché for a reason. We’ve all heard it a million times whenever we’ve tried to master anything as complicated as tying our shoes. Any first-chair violinist or cross-country team captain will tell you about the dull sense of dread they felt humming underneath their excitement as they faced their first Bach concerto or 5 kilometer course. However, after much dedicated practice, these challenges became as second-nature as…well, tying their shoes.

Few and far between are the people who can pick up a violin for the first time and create anything more than a fair impression of a cat being strangled. How many couch potatoes can roll off their Laz-y-boys onto a 5 kilometer cross country course and finish first? About the same number as pre-schoolers who can tell you what a quadratic equation is. The practice makes perfect maxim applies to academics as much as to extracurriculars. In high school, I knew that extra practice made me a better Spanish-speaker, a (somewhat) better violinist and a better SAT-taker. However, for whatever reason, I thought that the math practice I received in class and for homework would be enough to make me the next John Forbes Nash. It wasn’t.

I would listen in class, take notes, work practice problems, do the homework, and file all the knowledge away into a tiny filing cabinet in my brain. Come test day, I would open the filing cabinet and retrieve this information. Never fail, some time in between the filing of the formulas and the retrieving, some dramatic tragedy would have occurred inside that cabinet. By the time I got to the test, all the information was tangled and mangled and impossible to decipher. After about two years of cold sweats and nightmares, I realized that for the information to stick in my slippery brain, I would have to drill it in. That meant extra homework just so I would be comfortable with the concepts on test day. Once this epiphany struck me, my grades continued to steadily rise. As did my SAT score!

For those of you like me who need extra practice with certain math concepts found on the SAT and ACT, this Web site should be a great help.

http://www.edhelper.com/algebra.htm

It allows you to create your own practice worksheets filled with custom-made Algebra I and Algebra II problems. There is even an answer key. I imagine it will be a great confidence-booster and cure for those panicky cold sweats.


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