Math is Not a Spectator Sport
You cannot learn mathematics by just going to class and watching the instructor lecture and work problems. In order to learn mathematics you must be actively involved in the learning process. You’ve got to attend class and pay attention while in class. You’ve got to take a good set of notes. You’ve got to work homework problems, even if the instructor doesn’t assign any. You’ve got to study on a regular schedule, not just the night before exams. In other words you need to be involved in the learning process.
The reality is that most people really need to work to pass a math class, and in general they need to work harder at math classes than they do with their other classes. If all that you’re willing to do is spend a couple of hours studying before each exam then you will find that passing most math classes will be very difficult.
If you aren’t willing to be actively involved in the process of learning mathematics, both inside and outside of the class room, then you will have trouble passing any math class.
Work to Understand the Principles
You can pass a history class by simply memorizing a set of dates, names and events. You will find, however, that in order to pass a math class you will need to do more than just memorize a set of formulas. While there is certainly a fair amount of memorization of formulas in a math class you need to do more. You need to understand how to USE the formulas and that is often far different from just memorizing them.
Some formulas have restrictions on them that you need to know in order to correctly use them. For instance, in order to use the quadratic formula you must have the quadratic in standard form first. You need to remember this or you will often get the wrong answer!
Other formulas are very general and require you to identify the parts in the problem that correspond to parts in the formula. If you don’t understand how the formula works and the principle behind it, it can often be very difficult to use the formula. For example, in a calculus course it’s not terribly difficult to memorize the formula for integration by parts for integrals. However, if you don’t understand how to actually use the formula and identify the appropriate parts of the integral you will find the memorized formula worthless.
Mathematics is Cumulative
You’ve always got to remember that mathematics courses are cumulative. Almost everything you do in a math class will depend on subjects that you’ve previously learned. This goes beyond just knowing the previous sections in your current class to needing to remember material from previous classes.
You will find a college algebra class to be very difficult without the knowledge that you learned in your high school algebra class. You can’t do a calculus class without first taking an Algebra and a Trigonometry class.