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How Penn Staters Succeeded In Hard Courses: Math Edition

Last week, we shared a handful of responses readers sent in about how they were able to make it through some of Penn State’s hardest science courses. This week, we’ll hear from some more students and alumni about how they survived their math classes.

While we know that there are many math courses on campus, our responses mainly discussed two crowd favorites: MATH 140/141 and STAT 200.

MATH 140/141

MATH 140 and 141 are two of the most dreaded classes on campus — unless you’re actually a fan of calculus. We’ll guess that you aren’t.

Paul, who graduated from the Smeal College of Business in 2011, recalls that office hours and practice exams were extremely helpful.

“Future tests are very similar to past ones,” he said.

Kaitlyn, who was a College of Engineering graduate, had a different strategy for MATH 140 exams. However, it was still very effective.

“Go to class as much as possible and take diligent notes. Especially listen for the ‘trick’ questions or particular rules for drawing graphs,” Kaitlyn said. “There was almost always a question in the exam about those. I also created flashcards for particular rules to memorize them for exams.”

Bennett, a 2016 graduate of the College of Engineering, also relied on office hours as well as study groups for MATH 140, MATH 141, and even some of his mechanical engineering courses.

“Take the time to learn the subjects on your own terms by reading the chapter or at least skimming it the night before. Bring questions to class to support your way of learning,” Bennet said.

Chris, who graduated in 2019, needed to give MATH 141 a second try. It makes a world of difference when you only have one course to focus on instead of four or five.

Chris said, “I got a D in the spring. I took it in the summer and got a B.”

STAT 200

STAT 200 is another commonly taken class required by many majors at Penn State. Still, it always seems to be a roadblock for students.

If you’re struggling in a course, remember to explore all of the resources that are available to you. Mandi, who graduated in 2020, told us that she used the tutoring service offered by World Campus and ended up getting an A in the class.

Maybe tutoring isn’t your style. Brittany figured out early on that it was better for her to study alone, and it ended up working out quite well.

“Sometimes, a textbook is easier to understand than the way the professor is trying to teach the material. So, I studied and learned via my textbook and just showed up on test day,” said Brittany.

Brianne, a Class of 2017 alum, strayed a little far from Happy Valley to get the grade. I think we all love State College a little too much to leave for more than a few weeks, though.

“Honestly, I took both [STAT 200 and MATH 140] at York campus. All of the elementary classes are easier when you take them at the other campus locations,” said Brianne.

Unfortunately, there isn’t always a trick and you’ll have to put your nose to the grindstone. Ian, who’s in the Class of 2024, told us that he passed the class after dedicating “sooo much time” to it.


Well, there you have it. Try a few of these strategies out, and maybe one will work like a charm for you. Go ace those exams, folks.

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About the Author

Haylee Yocum

Haylee is a sophomore in the Schreyer Honors College studying immunology and infectious disease. She is from Mifflintown, PA, a tiny town south of State College. She is a coffee addict, loves Taylor Swift, and can't wait to go to a concert again. Any questions can be directed to @hayleeq8 on Twitter or emailed to [email protected]

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