Among the many subjects in the academe, most students perceive math to be the hardest to understand. Research suggests time and time again that the majority of students from all walks of life and ages struggle with numbers and mathematical concepts.
A study that experts conducted in 2019 reports that 37% of students aged 13 to 17 find math to be the most challenging subject, ranking highest on the list of complex school subjects. Another study conducted in 2018 records that 89% of parents believe that mathematics is the most challenging subject their children study. In this same study, 77% of parents believe that math is a subject that schools do not teach effectively.
These findings are despite the fact that research also points to the fact that parents value their children’s performance in mathematics over any other subject, seconded by kids’ performance in science.
Math proficiency is an essential aspect of learning. Its value as a practical skill starts early in life, as learning how to count is a vital capability that children will need to master as they grow. As kids progress in life, it will also affect professional opportunities as mathematically-challenged adults may generally avoid jobs that require math proficiency. Low confidence in math skills goes beyond just bad days at school or low grades. It can lead to technology dependence, damaged self-concepts, and aversion to opportunities that need math skills.
Fortunately, studies worldwide debunk common misconceptions, proving that mathematical proficiency is more of an acquired skill than genetic hereditary. Studies have proven that there is no such thing as an inherent mathematical ability and that everyone can become proficient in math if they put in the time and effort.
It can be daunting, sure. But with the right approach, the willingness to learn, and the right attitude, you can surely find a way that works for you that will help develop mathematical prowess.
This article will detail ten different tips and tricks that will help you develop a mathematical brain. These steps will take no more than effort, time, and the desire to get better. But first, it’s crucial that you also understand why.
Importance of Math
People often miss it, but humanity uses math every day. It may seem utterly mundane with the As, the Bs, the Cs, and the sins and logs of the world, but mathematics is of use to people more than they think.
From counting the hours of sleep you can still have after binge-watching the latest show to counting the change in your pocket, math exists in our lives every day. It manifests itself daily in many different ways, too, some ways more visible and some ways much less noticeable.
It also helps to consider that mathematics isn’t just about numbers. It’s also about problem-solving and critical thinking, vital skills people need to develop at a young age. Mathematics teaches people to consider all factors in a situation to reach the most optimal solution. In many cases in our lives, these factors don’t always equate to numbers. These are fundamental life skills, and studying math improves the ability to solve problems in all aspects of your life. The skill may involve practical examples like deducing which room smells bad by eliminating all the other sources and finding the best way to maneuver around traffic.
So the next time you feel like math is an impractical academic subject, you may want to think twice and think about how your mom calculates the money you need for your allowance.
How to Become Smarter in Math
Learning mathematics, according to professionals, is not too different from learning any other skill. You will need time, effort, and the right attitude to get off to a smooth start. The only main difference, really, is that math is an expansive subject matter and is continuously evolving as new innovations in science and technology come to fruition. But unless you intend to pursue higher education, there is no need to dive into the nitty-gritty of the advanced concepts. All you have to do is to take baby steps, get the fundamentals down, and go from there.
Practice Makes Perfect
Like learning how to ride a bike or figuring out how to bake your favorite pastry, math takes a lot of practice to master. Fortunately, there are different ways to access exercises that can help you practice your mathematical skills through education.
School is the best place to put your capabilities to the test as teachers provide activities to work on, questions to ponder, guides to remember, and homework to solve. All these things are terrific ways to help you enhance your math capabilities through practice, so always find the time to work on your homework.
Nothing comes easy in life – and mathematics is no exception. Mathematical proficiency is a skill developed from practicing over and over again. If you have any spare time, give equations a quick look, practice some exercises, and touch upon your basic arithmetics.
Higher education institutions believe that practicing math daily as a part of a daily routine is a recommendable and effective way to boost math skills. Radford University found that students who willingly practice math frequently enough to understand essential concepts often perform better than students who do the bare minimum and push to learn new ideas in just one session.
On the other hand, Dowling College strongly recommends practicing math for a few minutes every day to yield immediate results in improving basic skills through repetition, experimentation, and testing out new and complex mathematical problems.
Practice is arguably the most essential tip on this list and will surely help you learn math within just a few weeks. Studies have also concluded that practicing math exercises reduces anxiety for students. According to Rose Vukovic, a New Your University professor, students who shudder from anxiety may experience embarrassment over simple math tasks. Practice presents itself as an accessible way to reduce such instances and improve learning.
Ask For Help If Needed
The best thing about learning is that you don’t have to do it alone. If you go to school, you have friends or classmates who can help you improve in math. If you’re home-schooled, your tutors will always be around to answer your questions.
When learning, math probably isn’t the only thing on your mind. There are other subjects on your plate, like English or Science, that you still need to attend. The most fun way to cover more ground in math is to find a study partner. There may be times when you feel absent-minded or distracted in class, so putting in some extra work with a friend can be an entertaining way to learn a bit more outside the classroom.
Positive relationships with classmates, teachers, and parents are essential in real-world situations as they will help you thrive. You may even want to consider forming study groups if you have friends who share the same concern and willingness to learn more about math.
Teachers, tutors, and parents can also help you get better at math. Teachers are around to help. While they definitely don’t have the luxury of time, make sure you pay attention to lessons and express that you’re interested in learning from them. Welcome the opportunity to learn and ask any questions you may have in mind. Teaching is not an easy job, and showing that you care about the class by responding positively to your teachers goes a long way.
Asking questions about the lesson is helpful in building an understanding of concepts and processes, too. Questions are the key to fully understanding the complexities of math topics that have frustrated young minds for years. Studies found that 63% of parents noticed that their children become tense before a math test. By reaching out and asking the questions you have in mind, you will be able to achieve clarity with the concepts and avoid tension and anxiety.
Master the Fundamentals
The thing about math is that it repeatedly makes use of fundamental concepts to build complex processes. This trend is the reason why it’s crucial to master the basics. The basics include fundamental operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division), word problems, fractions, decimals, and percentages.
The basics are essential. A review of various curriculums around the world found that multiplication is the basis for many high school math problems. To prepare better for the rigors of high school mathematics, it would be nice to cover some ground on the basics using flashcards, computer programs, and maybe even practice tests consistently.
Basic Arithmetic: Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication, Division
These four operations are the bedrock of mathematics. No advanced calculation or operation will ever be possible without the existence of basic arithmetics. If you understand these operations by heart, you will surely have a comfortable journey through high school mathematics.
Decimals and Fractions
Many learners find decimals and fractions to be their Achilles’ heels. This reputation is why it’s easy to be intimidated and confused by operations involving decimals and fractions. Remember to take it slow when learning about decimals and fractions. Start with standard and lower numbers like ¼ or ½. It would also help learners remember concepts if teachers educate students about the associations between ratios, decimals, and fractions, so check on that as well.
Percentages, compared to fractions and decimals, are generally easier to understand despite being related in many ways. A percentage is a component of a whole or exact amount per 100. The concept of percentages is often applicable to vital daily tasks like finding the correct amount for the tips, getting the value of discounts, solving for sales tax, interest rates in bank savings, and more.
It’s a component of the whole or a certain amount per 100. This is used when you’re working on chores like figuring out the discount, nutrition value, computing sales tax, interest rate in your bank savings, and more.
Word Problems and Solving for Unknown Values
One of the most common exercises in mathematics is the use of word problems to test students’ critical thinking and deductive skills. Word problems are commonly structured to test young minds’ ability to solve for an unknown variable by presenting information that they can use to formulate conclusions. This skill is crucial in the real-life context as this is an example of math application that goes beyond just numbers.
Sharpen Algebra Skills
Algebra is a math student’s gateway into advanced math courses. However, it’s essential to know that algebra can be a tall mountain to climb, so make sure that you get approval from teachers first before you move forward. Algebra problems often deal with a series of basic operations before reaching the final answer. So before you move forward to algebra, make sure that you’ve mastered the basics and can add, subtract, multiply, and divide even while you’re asleep. Life is better when you’re prepared for the next set of challenges as it reduces stress and maximizes ease.
Students learn in many different ways. Fortunately, there are many different ways to present math problems as well. Visualizing the data involved in a mathematical process can be an effective way to solve problems better. It’s especially effective for fractions, decimals, word problems, and even percentages. Visualizing data can also help understand trend lines, data points, axes, and graphic equations. This ability to comprehend such concepts will help you create graphs and charts and present your ideas.
Learn Math Your Way
Studies discovered that children learn better in certain ways. Some people learn better through listening; some people learn more efficiently when watching people how to do certain tasks. This study applies to learning mathematics.
If you’re not sure what way works best for you, you can try a variety of things with your study partners, groups, teachers, or parents. If you’re a visual learner, you learn better when each step is shown to you by your teacher. If you’re an auditory learner, you learn better by listening to your teacher as they go through each step. Once you find the best way for you, prioritize your way of learning by finding resources that suit your needs, like videos online or a study session with a classmate who can show you the ropes.
Another way to customize learning for yourself is by finding out if you have a left-brained or right-brained. According to research, being left-brain or right-brain dominant greatly affects learning. Research says that left-brained individuals have an affinity for logical and organized concepts, making them more at ease when it comes to mathematical operations.
Right-brained people, on the other hand, prefer freer, more subjective, and less structured creative pursuits. This cognitive wiring also means that right-brained people often struggle a bit more when it comes to mathematical problems. Educational Specialist Dianne Craft recommended the integration of such concepts in finding out the best way for you to learn. According to Craft, right-brained students like colors, music, emotions, and images – all of which can be integrated into a person’s learning process. For example, when working on fractions, you may want to draw a pie representing the values of a problem to help you visualize the problem better or make up a song or poem to remember formulae.
Other studies also discovered that actual ability isn’t actually the cause of math struggles. The research found that students’ perception of themselves and what they think about themselves is the dominant cause of underperformance in math. Maria DeLourdes Mata, who is a child development specialist, claims that stereotypes about math and gender cause students to feel unmotivated. So make sure that you do your best to veer away from negative beliefs so you can be unhindered and unencumbered as you move from one math task to the next.
Learn From Your Mistakes
Perfection is not the expectation. Excellence is the more realistic goal. As someone working hard toward better math skills, be patient with yourself as you will surely hit bumps along the way.
Make sure to understand all your mistakes, so you never make them again. Sometimes, the education system can be too occupied with achieving perfection that students have developed the tendency to ignore their mistakes. The systems in place had made it so that students started fearing mistakes instead of learning from them.
Cliche as this sounds, the adage remains true. It’s important to remember that those who don’t learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them. Give yourself time to review and analyze every mistake. Think about why it happened, how it happened, and how you can avoid them in the future.
If there’s a component to certain equations that you can’t seem to figure out, ask your friends or teachers about how to work them out.
Application to Real-World Challenges
Many students don’t feel motivated about learning math because they feel like the subject doesn’t teach real-world skills – which couldn’t be farther from the truth. Many math solutions can become abstract. It might make mathematical solutions difficult to remember and understand in such cases. To make things easier to comprehend and digest, you may apply the solution to an everyday situation with which you’re more familiar.
Common examples would be calculating the distance you can cover with your remaining gas, cutting pizzas for a certain number of guests, and calculating the probability of winning the lottery.
Math becomes more relevant when people know that it can help make life easier. Math exists in everyday life, and applying the subject to real-world problems can help people find value in learning more about the subject.
Create a Conducive Learning Environment
People learn better when they have access to an area where they can focus on learning. Critical thinking and problem-solving skills needed in solving math problems require focus and concentration, so having a serene place for learning helps you understand and master math concepts.
Finding or establishing a place for learning can help you learn math faster and more efficiently. A place that would help you focus on work and minimize distractions like food, chores, and gadgets would be an ideal environment for math practice and learning. Many people choose to work in cafes or in front of a television, but both of these places may be prone to temptations and things that may distract you from the task at hand.
You may want to consider classical music as studies claim that listening to piano and violin concertos helps concentration and focus and reduce stress. Perhaps playing some Debussy or some Chopin might help get the math juices going.
Use the Power of Technology
If this guide had been written a few years earlier, this tip might not have made the list. In the past few years, technology and artificial intelligence have made strides in making learners’ lives easier and better.
The rise of technology has finally caught up to the point where it is able to address the online demand for math help and accessible resources.
AI, software, and applications innovative designers developed in the past half-decade have made some incredible features available to learners online. Helpful tools can now provide expert-level tutoring and math learning tools from teachers around the world through applications. Other resources provide complete downloadable notes on lessons and sessions mathematicians and university professors administer in higher education institutions overseas about advanced topics such as Algebra, Calculus, and Differential Equations.
Innovations have even created educational multiplayer games that revolve around math and a video resource filled with guides on a variety of math topics. Technology introduced learners around the world to multimedia resources that seek to educate and inform.
There are thousands of platforms, portals, sites, and sources online that can help you become better math students. They range from free software to affordable sources with free trials to pricey yet highly reliable software that will take your exploration of knowledge to the next level.
Knowledge is right in the palm of your hands. All you need is consistent and persistent discernment in finding what you need. The road to mathematical excellence is long, but the right outlook and patience will surely help you soldier through any rough patch.