Study tips for math
If math doesn’t come easily to you, you’re not alone. But with a bit of hard work (and sometimes a lot of hard work), I’m 100% convinced that you can do just as well as or better than your seemingly math genius classmates. They key is to put in the time and not give up.
The first step to doing well in your math class is to really pay attention. This can be a challenge, especially when you:
- don’t get enough sleep
- skip breakfast
- have math class late in the day
- sit in the back of the classroom
- your teacher talks too quickly, way over your head, or in a slow monotonous way
Most of these things can be addressed: make a point of going to bed earlier. Eat breakfast. Ask to be seated in the front. You may not have much say about when you have math class or how your teacher delivers the lesson, but you can do your part to be ready for it.
Write everything down. Not just the stuff the teacher writes on the board, but important things he or she says. I think many students these days were never really taught the art of note taking, a skill that will serve you well as courses become more challenging. Write down the main points. Write down definitions. Write down the examples. Just the act of writing it down helps you learn it. Be neat enough that you can make sense of it when you get home. And, when you get home, it’s enormously beneficial to rewrite your notes – not only to fill them out and make them neater, but because actively thinking through everything that was done in class will help solidify it in your brain.
Ask questions. Asking questions can be really difficult for many people, out of fear of drawing attention to themselves or looking stupid. Ignore these things (easier said than done, I know), or write down your questions and find a time, that same day if possible, to talk them over with your teacher in private. If your math teacher isn’t open to freely offering extra help, find another math teacher who is.
Do the homework. You can’t really learn math by watching someone else do it. You have to do the math yourself. And when you do your homework, don’t give up. It’s easy to glance over the problems, think they’re too difficult, and shut the book. But in order to succeed, you have to work with the material until it makes sense.
- If you don’t know where to start, read the text book – the couple of pages before the problem set will give you completed examples to read through.
- Look at your class notes and find examples that are similar to the homework problems that you did in class.
- Use the internet. Google “solution” and the key words in the problem you are struggling with, and you may find similar completed problems. If you happen to stumble across the answer key for your book, don’t cheat and take the easy way out – use it to help you learn the material.
- If your teacher gives you problems that have the answers in the back of the book, bookmark the answer page and use it to help you learn. Knowing where you’re going (the answer) may help you find the way to get there.
- Do your homework the same day it’s assigned. You may only have math class every other day. Still do the homework the same day, while it’s fresh in your mind. If you have math on a Friday, do your homework Friday after school, not Sunday night. I know, I know – you’re a rock star at procrastination. But if you’re looking for ways to do better in math, give it a try.
Form a study group. Ask around to see if there are a couple of kids in your class who are interested in getting together once in a while to review material and do problems together. Talking about the material can really help you make sense of it.
Plan ahead. My last piece of advice is to look ahead to test and quiz days. Use a calendar, write down all test and quiz dates, and don’t wait until the night before to study. If you spread your studying out over a couple of days, and keep up with the homework, there won’t be much left to do the night before the test and you can get a good night sleep.
I realize these suggestions aren’t easy, but they work. And remember, bringing up your grade and really understanding the material, feels amazing.
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