- 01. 10 Strategies to Help you Become Better at Maths
- 02. Master Each Topic in Turn
- 03. Train Your Memory for Mental Maths
- 04. Always Write Maths Problems Down
- 05. Work in a Calm Environment
- 06. Work Together with Your Friends to Get Better at Maths
- 07. Make a Step-by-Step Record of Maths Problems and Solutions
- 08. Never Write In Ink
- 09. Show Your Workings Using A Pencil
- 10. Don’t Revise Maths Late At Night
- 11. Visualise the Maths Problem
Everybody has at least one memory from maths class.
Whether doing KS2 at primary school, maths revision GCSE at secondary school, A Levels at sixth form, or studying at university, maths class certainly makes an impression on all of us.
This subject will always be hugely important and that’s why it’s taught from a very young age. It provides us with many essential skills including logical thinking, restitution of knowledge, summarising, problem solving, working with time and space, and how to rationalise word problems.
We can often find it difficult to learn maths. We stumble when it’s not going well when, in fact, all we have to do is take a step back from the wreckage. If we don't, this can make our marks go down and cause us to lose confidence in our own abilities.
Even if you usually fail maths, don't despair! If you want to get better maths scores, here are some great tips on how to get ahead in maths and boost your level in the subject.
10 Strategies to Help you Become Better at Maths
Master Each Topic in Turn
If you don’t understand something, focus on it until you’ve completely mastered it before moving on to the next topic.
This seems obvious but it’s essential. Don't move onto calculus before you've got the hang of algebra and don't tackle quadratic equations before understanding linear equations.
Let’s say that you have some second degree calculations and you have to learn to carry out operations such as addition and subtraction or multiplication and division with positive and negative numbers. Students usually freeze when they see something new and difficult.
Others decide to just ignore it and think that they’ll never understand it. They move on to the next lesson in the hope that it’ll help them better understand the previous whereas the inverse is true, they just end up even more lost!
Maths is like learning to read: if you don’t know the alphabet, you’ll never understand words, sentences, or a full text.
Every maths lesson builds upon the previous . Everything naturally comes together. First you do counting, then you learn to add, subtract, multiply, and divide. The order is very rational.
If you don’t understand a given maths exercise, do it again, go back to the basics, and read the previous chapter in order to better understand the fundamentals. Have a look over your homework again.
You can also check past papers, browse the internet for online tutorials, ask your teacher, or take private maths tutorials.
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The most common problems in maths classes are as follows:
- Solving an equation (differential, quadratic, and polynomial equations in particular).
- Understanding geometric problems (using Pythagoras’ theorem or calculating the surface area or circumference of polygons, for example).
- Applying probability to scientific problems.
- Doing maths worksheets without having to ask for help from the teacher.
- Some people forget the basics (such as decimals, mathematical language, and basic calculations. You should find out how to calculate quickly!)
Train Your Memory for Mental Maths
Every time you have to learn a new formula or theorem, like calculating surfaces or volumes, you should write them down somewhere.
Then ask a friend to take an old formula you’ve already learnt and describe it.
Try to understand how you get to a given result.
Let them ask you a mental arithmetic question and see how you can apply your new formula.
Each time you do this comprehension activity, you’ll activate part of your memory and make it easier and easier to learn formulae in the future. Don't forget that tutoring can help with the things you won't find in your textbook!
Always Write Maths Problems Down
When you face a maths problem, you don't always have to work it out in your head.
If you work things out exclusively in your head, you run the risk of losing your train of thought or not knowing where you’re going with your calculation.
Take the time to write down what you’re doing in your head. This will help you visualise your thinking and answer the question of whether your reasoning is good; “Will this solution work?”
To succeed in maths, you should always write things down as it helps structure your reasoning.
Reformulate the problem by writing it down and start solving it step by step instead of trying to tackle the problem all at once and making a mistake.
Work in a Calm Environment
When you have to revise or solve a maths problem, try to find a calm and quiet place where you won’t be distracted and can avoid making mistakes.
Don’t listen to loud music, make sure your television isn’t on in the background, put your smartphone on silent and turn off notifications, and avoid anything that could distract you. This is also true for online math tutoring.
If you want to get better marks in maths, you should focus completely on what you’re doing. Remove anything that could draw your attention away from your maths problems.
Make yourself a maths sanctuary: indicate on your door that you’re working on your maths exercises and tell your family that you’d like to concentrate and not be disturbed while you’re studying.
Otherwise, set aside a few hours so that you can go to your closest library. You’ll finish your work in a fraction of the time, concentrate better and study more effectively.
Work Together with Your Friends to Get Better at Maths
If one of your classmates asks you for advice, try to explain it as clearly as possible.
In fact, if you clearly understand something, you can clearly explain it. Explaining something clearly means that you have mastered your subject.
Being able to help someone struggling in maths is also an opportunity to check your own understanding of the subject.
Paraphrasing or relaying information to somebody else is a great way to develop your understanding of maths.
Don’t forget to ask for advice from the people you know. It’s always useful to get a different point of view using different expressions to help you better understand something.
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Make a Step-by-Step Record of Maths Problems and Solutions
If you want to get better at maths, you should take notes on how to solve every maths problem you face. It's also great when you're practicing for exams.
Then, work back through the problems by following each step. By working back through the problems, it’s much easier to follow your process.
This will help both you and the teacher when they correct your work. It will help them understand your thought process and give them more opportunities to give you marks.
By clearly showing how you arrive at your answer and the steps you’ve taken to solve the problem, the teacher can see that you’ve thought about the problem and how you tackled it.
Understanding financial literacy: how can school maths help?
Never Write In Ink
Why shouldn’t I use a pen when it comes to showing my working? Because you’ll inevitably make a mistake!
Imagine an erroneous decimal point completely changing the place value of a digit!
Your thought process will take you down several roads before you get to the answer and you’ll end up with a lot of information written down. This will be really difficult to read.
Your brain won’t know where you’re going, you’ll panic, and then you’ll end up wasting a lot of time on otherwise simple sums.
When you have the solution to your problem and have shown that you thought about it, clearly copy down the steps you’ve taken.
Show Your Workings Using A Pencil
By using pencils with rubbers, you’ll be able to rub out whatever goes wrong and make as many corrections as you need to. This means you’ll have a clear and readable document at the end. If you make a mistake with the order of operations, you'll see exactly where you went wrong!
To make your mathematical reasoning as clear as possible, you should always have a blank page next to you and avoid pages of scribbles in order to make your life as easy as possible.
Buy quality equipment. Every mathematician knows that!
Follow these maths tips to the letter!
Don’t Revise Maths Late At Night
When you work on a maths problem, whether it’s fractions, probability, or the Fourier Transform, never stay up late to do so.
A lot of students do it but the consequences can be really bad for your health. You're never going to master complex numbers, the Pythagorean theorem, or a quadratic equation when you're struggling to keep your eyes open. I can barely do basic adding and subtracting when I'm tired, let alone long division or subtracting fractions.
On the one hand, you won’t feel great the next morning and you’ll have probably dreamt about maths all night.
On the other hand, the later you work, the more likely you are to make mistakes. Your concentration won’t be as good as during the day or in the morning.
If you’re stuck on a maths problem, leave it alone for a few hours.
“Sleeping on it” is often a good idea. The next morning you’ll wake up with the solution being so obvious or you'll at least have a few ideas on how to tackle the problem.
Visualise the Maths Problem
This tip is pretty cliché and not always possible but if it’s possible, you should try and visualise the problem.
By having a visualisation of the problem, you’ll be able to see which other maths tips to employ to help solve your problem.
This is particularly useful for geometry and trigonometry and is basically why graphing exists. These types of puzzles beg to be drawn up. I mean, can you actually think about a right triangle without picturing it in your head?
It’s important to simplify as much information as possible into coherent imagery. Diagrams, tables, and graphics can always be used as a visual aid to solve problems.
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