To many people, mathematics can be one of the most challenging subjects that they may take. This can be true for not just high school students but primary school kids and Uni students also. Many students are reluctant to enrole in maths and science courses out of fear that their maths abilities aren’t up to the required standard. We may look at geniuses such as Albert Einstein, John Nash (Russell Crowe’s character in A Beautiful Mind) and others and wonder what may be wrong with our abstract thinking process, why can’t we understand maths and its theories and formulas like others?
But there’s no need to stress out over studying maths; guess what, maths is basically learning the formulas and remembering where and how to apply them. You may think that guy or girl in your class who always seems to ace each exam is brilliant. They may well be, but most likely they have studied hard, memorised the formulas and learned how to apply them to the problems given.
When I was in year 11, I started to struggle in my maths class and was barely passing my class tests. My teacher told me I had to work harder if I wanted to pass the final exams. I subsequently took some extra tutoring classes and worked hard at my studies to learn the formulae and practice applying them to various problems from past exam papers. As a result, I was able to turn my D grade into an A grade in my final exam and go on to study engineering at Uni.
Here are 7 basic concepts I adopted to help me increase my understanding of maths:
- Ask questions. If there is anything you are unsure about in class, don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask a question about it as in all likelihood there will be others in the class who will have the same question. If you can’t ask the question straight away, write it down and be sure to ask the teacher or a fellow student as soon as possible.
- Study each topic carefully. It is often advised to spend at least twice the amount of time studying and learning the topic than the time your teacher spends teaching it in class. You can break up this study time into a few sessions and remember to come back and revise what you’ve learned later on, e.g. a few weeks later in the run up to an exam. Learn the formulas where you can or know how to derive them when they’re not given. Then make sure to practice, practice, practice! Do lots of example questions and practice mock exams. Remember, practice makes perfect!
- Start/join a study group. Try get some friends or classmates together for some study sessions. Particularly if they seem to have a good understanding of the topics you are struggling with. You will find that you will all benefit by being able to ask each other questions, bounce ideas of each other and problem solve together when needed. It can also be a bit of fun and keep you motivated rather than always studying on your own. Tip: Limit your group to around 4 to 5 people as smaller groups tend to get more done.
- Let your teacher or tutor know if you are having problems. By making them aware of any struggles you may be having, they can then devote some additional time or offer alternative sources of help to assist you.
- Study a topic with a friend by conversing what you have learned with them. I found this to be very helpful as often they may have additional information you didn’t know, e.g. quicker alternative methods for tackling a particular problem.
- Take epic notes! Make sure to write down notes as the problems are being explained and ensure they’re legible and easy to refer back to. I used to be guilty of scribbling down notes that I later couldn’t understand or didn’t know which class they were from etc. – very annoying when it came to revising! Keep an eye out for an upcoming post here about how to take epic maths notes. And finally;
- Utilise the vast array of resources at your fingertips. There is a wealth of great information resources out there to help you. You have obviously found this website so make sure to explore it if you haven’t already and check back often for future updates that will help you with your studies. I’ll soon be putting up a resources page for other sites, apps, books etc. that I recommend which can help your learning.
What do you think of these ideas? Have you tried any of them, if so, have they worked? Let me know using the comments section below. Also, are there any other tips which I’ve missed that you would recommend to others for helping improve their understanding of maths?
I’m also interested in hearing your recommendations for the resources page I’m preparing. What are the top killer websites, apps, books and so on that you find most helpful in your maths studies? I would love to hear your thoughts.
I’ll leave you with this quote from Albert Einstein:
“Do not worry about your difficulties in mathematics, I assure you that mine are greater.”