When learning something new, always strive to understand the why behind the basic principles and concepts. Too often I see students cram for a test only to forget everything after the test is completed. If you strive for understanding the material and the reasons behind the “facts,” you will be much better prepared for doing the work in the class and for taking any final exam given.
Understanding Computer Science
In my computer science classes, the tests are always related to the material being taught. If you understand the concepts being taught, your tests and your programs will be much better. As your understanding of programming concepts and structures improve, your code improves also. As a side benefit, you will do better on any computer related tests. As you learn to study the concepts and principals of programming, your ability to study other subjects will improve also.
Understanding Basic Mathematics
In mathematic classis, the basics must be totally understood before being able to complete any more complicated problems. Understanding how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide, and how to order those functions (PEMDAS) is critical. Understanding things like multiplying is really just multiple additions helps memorize the multiplication table. When these concepts are understood, then additional concepts (like powers) can be added. With powers, the Pythagorean Theory makes much more sense.
Likewise, history makes much more sense when you understand what was really happening at the time the events transpired. History is written by the victors. From my family history, I am a descendent of King John, the signer of the Magna Carta. Anyone who has read Robin Hood, knows how history portrays Prince/King John. Everyone has good and bad characteristics. He was the first king in England to give people more control over their own lives. He also cared about his brother, King Richard. Recent stories show that King Richard was captured and imprisoned in Austria on his way home from the Crusades. John had the choice of leaving him there or raising the money for the ransom (adjusted for inflation, the highest ransom ever paid). In John’s position what would you do. The key is to know as many of the underlying facts as possible.
To understand the United States Declaration of Independence and Constitution, you must understand how the colonists were being treated by the British. There is a specific reason for each the first ten amendments in the “Bill of Rights.” Strive to understand the reason behind each amendment to better understand the importance of each. The best place to start learning about the Constitution is the Federalist Papers.
To do better in any subject, strive to understand the basics of that subject and build from there. Memorizing facts or studying for a test may help in the short run, but truly understanding the principals and base concepts is the best way to understand any subject.