How to study mathematics effectively
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Mathematics is probably one of the most complained about subjects, pretty much all over the world. Students who don’t like maths often face high levels of stress when it comes to exams and even homework, finding assignments difficult or boring, and saying they’re simply no good.
Unfortunately, most students can’t escape maths when they enter university, even if they’re majoring in the Humanities or Liberal Arts, as the majority of programmes have a maths requirement.
Students of business can take classes such as Business Statistics to complete it, while others can take a maths class like calculus. Whatever course they choose to fulfill this requirement, it will need some basic knowledge of the subject.
If you’ve always struggled with maths in school, you might find it even harder when you take a college-level class as you haven’t got a strong foundation in the subject.
But maths really isn’t impossible if you’re willing to put in the work. Students often find the subject to be tedious or difficult because they haven’t taken the time to understand the formulas and principles, mastered the basics, or practised enough.
Here are some tips to study maths effectively so you can ace that requirement and get through class without stressing too much about it:
Practice, practice, and more practice!
This isn’t much of a secret, but many students overlook this essential advice when it comes to maths. Mathematics required plenty of ‘doing’, and it’s not a subject you can memorise from a textbook the night before an exam.
You’ll need to understand the logic and processes behind the problems, which comes naturally with practice. It also allows you to identify and work through common errors and mistakes, helping you become a better maths student.
Even if you think you understand a particular concept or formula, all your existing knowledge may be thrown for a loop when you’re faced with a particular problem that is the ‘exception to the rule’, or is particularly tricky.
You’ll need plenty of practice to solve problems, and the more practice you do the better – especially if you never fully understood the basics. If you’re weak at math, get stronger by getting yourself some practice books or downloading some free practice exercise online.
Finish your homework
It goes without saying that homework is very important for maths, as you need to apply what you’ve learnt. Even if your course structure doesn’t require you to hand in homework or gives you additional points for it, consider it part of your practice.
When it comes to maths homework, it’s best not to wait too long so the concepts are still fresh in your mind. If you complete your homework and assignments after each class, you will likely find it easier to master the concepts and identify your problem areas.
Take extensive notes
Take detailed notes during class instead of just copying down formulas. Source: Shutterstock
When you’re in a lecture or tutorial, take detailed notes on what your professor is saying. Instead of merely copying the examples or formulae on the board, jot down the explanations and tips stated by your professor.
Later, when you review your notes or do your homework, these notes might just be what you need to solve a difficult problem as you’ll be able to recall what your professor said about tackling it.
Plus, maths encourages active learning, so you’re engaged while listening to the lecture, and can better absorb the material instead of zoning out and trying to catch up later.
Ask for help
Too shy to raise your hand in class? Get help after class or during office hours. Source: Shutterstock
Never be afraid to ask for help while at university. If you’re an international student, you might be shy or find it difficult to speak up in a class of hundreds of students, but that shouldn’t stop you from getting help when you need it.
Math is a cumulative subject, meaning you’ll need a strong foundation or you’ll easily and quickly get left behind. It’s okay if you can’t seem to muster up the courage to ask a question in class, but you can always approach your professor after the lesson, during tutorials, or during office hours.
Some lectures also have teaching assistants you can ask for help if your professor is too busy. As soon as you run into a problem you can’t fix, ask them for help so you can figure it out early before the end of the semester comes and you’re in over your head.
You can also get help from your peers, seek tutoring if you’re really struggling, or join a study group where you can discuss problems together. Sometimes you just need something explained to you in a different way to truly understand it. Getting some support and help could be just what you need to master a maths class!
Believe in yourself
This might not be a study skill per se, but the right attitude is very important to being a good maths student. When we tell ourselves from a young age that we’re not good at math, we set ourselves up to fail.
By reinforcing this belief that you’re not good at maths, or that it’s too boring, you’re more likely to face maths anxiety, stress and low-confidence, which lead to miserable feelings in class, as well as a low retention rate, and an unwillingness to ask for help to improve your skills.