Many people take logic classes in college to avoid taking a math class. Some find, however, that symbolic logic can often be even more abstract and difficult than math. The trick, however, is to see logic as a set of puzzles to be solved rather than a confusing mystery.

Do the basics: attend class, do your reading and complete all the homework. If you are already afraid of the subject matter, avoiding it will only make it harder.

Remember that logic is supposed to make sense. There are no hidden tricks, and your professor isn't trying to teach you some kind of mysterious language. Once you have figured out how one axiom, law, or derivation works, it will never do anything differently.

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Don't over think the problems. Symbolic logic works by following very simple rules. They are also the only rules that can be used. So think like a robot. If you don't know a rule for how to do something, try another rule. One will eventually work.

Approach proofs as games. You are given a starting point (your assumptions) and your end point (what you are trying to prove). The "rules" of the game are the axioms and laws you have learned in class. Try to figure out which rules of the game you can use in order to transform your assumptions into the conclusion.

If it helps you to translate the abstract symbols into real statements, do so. It may take more time to figure out some of the more complicated proofs, but it can help you get a handle on the material if you feel lost in the clouds.

Do extra practice exercises. Even if it feels like torture, getting good at logic is like getting good at a game. You have to practice in order to know when each rule is appropriate to use. For some students, assigned homework simply is not enough to ensure that you can complete exam proofs effectively, so be prepared to do extra work if you are struggling.

Tips

  • Find a tutor. Many campuses have academic skills centers where you can get help with particular courses.
  • If you have a TA, use them for one on one tutoring.
  • Do no get discouraged by people in your class who seem to "get it" immediately. Most logic classes break down into two groups. One half, for some reason, seems to be able to do their work perfectly without even thinking about it. The other half feels like they are trying to learn a foreign language. Accept it if you are in the second half, and realize that it only takes practice to succeed.

Warnings

  • Don't think you can forget a unit once you pass the test. Logic, more than any other course, builds on what comes before, and you will keep using axioms and laws learned in the first unit when you get to the final exam.

About the Author

Craig Brewer, a graduate of the University of Texas, has been a freelance writer for 12 years, while also working as a software engineer and video game tester. He has published articles in a number of regional magazines, as well as all over the internet.