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How to Study Math

Updated on May 30, 2020
Rohini T profile image

Rohini, an Electronics and Telecom Engineer, struggled in math in school. The guidance from her teachers helped her improve her scores.

Struggle

I was one of the kids who dreaded math in school to the point that I had nightmares before tests. Fortunately, I had good teachers who taught me better study techniques that helped me improve my grades in high school. It helped me complete my education successfully and get an engineering degree.

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A Texas Instruments Education Technology survey in 2018 found that 24% of kids in the US either dislike or hate math.

Learning Math

If you feel anxious at the sight of working with numbers, you are not alone. A Texas Instruments Education Technology survey in 2018 found that 24% of kids in the US either dislike or hate math.

The reality is that we can't run away from math. We have to learn to coexist with it and use it to benefit ourselves.

Here, I present you a few tips to help you score well in those dreaded math tests.

Develop A Growth Mindset

If you scored an 'F' or 'D' grade in a test, it doesn't mean you'll always struggle in math. It means that you need to relearn the topic and practice it more. If you work with a positive mindset, you can score well above passing grades.

If you work with a positive mindset, you can score well above passing grades.

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Understand Concepts And Fundamentals

Difficult topics can be scary at first. Paying attention to the class and doing homework will help you feel more confident.

Apply what you learn in class in your daily life. If you are learning about measurement, estimate the circumference of a plate or volume of glass at home. After a grocery or a restaurant trip, check if the bill total is correct. Calculate the tip amount when you order pizza.

Don't use the cellphone calculator. You might ask - Why? The answer is - To save time on tests. If you can calculate basic operations on top of your head, it saves your time for other problems.

Know the saying - 'Use it or lose it'? The brain works the same way. Develop your brain by exercising it with mental calculations.

You don't need to multiply large numbers on top of your head, just simple daily calculations.

If a concept is hard, ask questions to the teacher or get help from your parents. Each topic is the foundation for the next one. Get it crystal-clear in your head before you move on.

Develop your brain by exercising it with mental calculations.

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Revision

If your foundation is weak, your building will fall sooner or later. You don’t want that. Do you?

Before the teacher starts a new topic, revise earlier topics. If you are to learn trigonometry, go over the basics of types of triangles. Don't flip through notebook pages or laptop files during class. Revise them before the class.

After the teacher completes the topic in the school, always do your homework and revise it after a few days.

Benedict Carey, the author of How We Learn, mentions in his book the best way to memorize your material. As per him, revisit the material when you are only able to recall some part of it. If it's still fresh in your memory, wait for few more days. Do it before forgetting it altogether as you don't want to start from scratch.

Explain a topic you have learned to a sibling or a friend. When you try to explain to someone else, it uncovers gaps in your knowledge. Group study with friends works too. You can test yourself indirectly this way.

Revision takes self-discipline but it's not as difficult as it sounds. Make it a part of your daily study routine. You only need an extra few minutes.

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Practice

We know math is different than other subjects. You can't cram or memorize arithmetic problems on the evening before the test day. Instead, the effort spent day-in-day-out before the test determines your success.

Math is a 'doing' subject. Consider it like swimming. You can read, watch videos about it, and know the techniques in theory. But, you won't get to the swim team without hours of actual practice.

Regular practice is the key to success.

What is your preferred way of practicing math?

See results

Methods of Practicing

Homework, worksheets, and tutorial websites are all good ways to practice math. Make sure to practice a variety of problems.

Let me explain this point further. If you only practice the problems in your homework, your expertise may be limited to one kind of problem. A different problem may surprise you at the test. Practice from a variety of sources to be more proficient.

Exchange assignments with friends from other classes and schools. It will give you another perspective on the same topic. Remember to use free resources on the internet.

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Train Your Mind

In other subjects when you see a question, you either know the answer or not. In math, you don't always know the answer.

Whenever you are working on a problem, prepare a step-by-step plan about how you'll solve it. Once you have the plan, start working. Your confidence improves as you solve each step and move ahead to the solution.

Many students tend to panic on tests when they see a difficult problem. Avoid it by planning your solution during homework practice.

In the tests, every problem is different and needs knowledge of all in-scope topics. The planning habit helps you use your knowledge as a whole.

Math is not a monster. Treat it as a useful tool.

Where You Are, There Is Math

Don’t ever think that math is not my cup of tea. No matter what profession you choose in your adult life, numbers are there to haunt you. Arithmetic proficiency will give you an extra edge in life in whatever you do.

Math is not a monster. Treat it as a useful tool. Make use of all the resources available to understand the topics. In today’s information age, you can learn anything if you spend enough effort on it.

All the best!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Rohini T

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