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How to Be Good at Mathematics

Three Parts:Practicing MathGetting Help and AdviceCultivating the Right Mindset

Many people feel they are naturally bad at math, and will not be able to improve in the area. This is simply not true. Studies show being good at math is a matter of hard work just as much, if not more, than innate talent.[1] You can become good at math simply by dedication. Take time each day to practice math until the concepts start to click for you. If necessary, seek outside help. A tutor, a teacher, or even someone who is simply good at math can help you perfect your skills. You should also work on developing a healthy attitude about math. Many people have a defeatist attitude about the subject, and are inclined to think, "I'm not good at math now, so I never will be." Understand this is not the case. Most people can improve at math with some hard work.

Part 1
Practicing Math

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    Study in a distraction free environment. If you're not great at math, you need to make sure you're studying in an environment that allows for concentration. Before you sit down to practice, find a place free of outside stimuli that can cause distraction.[2]
    • Find an area where there is not a lot of noise or commotion. A quiet coffee shop could work, or a desk in your bedroom.
    • Minimize distractions in front of you. Disconnect from the internet and put away your phone.
    • If you like music while studying, go for instrumental music. Music with lyrics, or music that's very loud, can be distracting when you're studying.
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    Make time to practice each day. There's no real secret to becoming good at mathematics. It all comes down to dedication. If you want to improve your math score, hard work is key. You will have to practice every day until you start to understand the underlying concepts behind math.[3]
    • Stick to a schedule. See where you can fit in some study time every day. Maybe you usually have some time in the early evenings. You could plan to study math from 6 to 7 every night after dinner.
    • Try not to study for hours and hours straight. This may create stress. Study for an hour or so each night.
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    Learn the logic and process involved. Math is sequential. Many people feel they have to memorize concepts and formulas, or map out the answer in their head before they begin. This is not productive. Instead, try to understand the concepts behind math. If you see how and why an equation works, you'll be able to remember it more easily in a pinch.[4]
    • Math theory may seem complicated, but with a little hard work you can begin to figure it out. In math classes, do not hesitate to ask why. Why does the Pythagorean Theorem work? How does the quadratic equation work on a logical level?
    • Understanding the underlying concepts is far more productive than simple memorization. If you understand something in depth, you'll have an easier time working with it. You'll be better equipped to check your answer if you understand why an equation makes sense.
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    Work out a problem one step at a time. Doing math, you want to see how to discover an answer. Instead of pre-planning how you'll figure out the answer, simply work the equation one step at a time. Do not think ahead, as going slowly will allow you to see how the answer unfolds.[5]
    • If you first need to divide, concentrate only on dividing. If you need to add next, keep your focus on adding.
    • Once you've completed the problem, you can go through and look at the process. Try to understand why and how the process worked.
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    Review incorrect answers carefully. You can learn a lot from your mistakes in math. When you find you have an incorrect answer, review your process. Where and how did you go wrong? Try to work through the problem again, figuring out how to get the correct answer.[6]
    • It's vital that you write down your process when solving math problems. Use a pen to write down the steps you took to solve a problem line by line. This way, when you make an error, you can review your work and figure out where you slipped up more easily.
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    Check your answers. Review your process after completing an equation. Carefully make sure you calculated everything correctly and used the right process. When you check to see if you got the answer right, you're more likely to have succeeded if you checked your answers carefully. This will also help you get in the habit of checking answers, which can boost grades on an exam.[7]
    • Checking answers can also help you better understand the underlying theories behind math.

Part 2
Getting Help and Advice

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    Have another person check your work. If you know someone who's good at math, have them look over your work when you're done. You can ask a parent for help, a tutor you hired, or a friend or family member who excels at math.[8][9]
    • If you're very confused, choose someone with a lot of patience who's good at explaining things. Your cousin may be a whiz at math, but he may be short tempered and judgmental. He may snap at you for not understanding something. Instead, ask your sister who's usually calm.
    • Do not be embarrassed to ask for help. It can take a long time to improve your math skills, and everyone needs some help along the way.
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    Try enrolling in an online course. If you're trying to improve your math skills outside of school, you can try taking an online course. Universities like Kaplan provide an array of online courses, and many colleges have classes online students can take remotely.[10]
    • Some schools provide certain aspects of a course, like PowerPoint presentations and taped lectures, for free online.
    • You can also look into an auditing a course at a local college. If money is an issue, auditing a course can allow you to gain knowledge for no cost.
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    Go to your school's math resource center. If you are in school, your school may have a math resource center. Many campuses have a center where students can go for one-on-one math tutoring. Check to see if a math center is available at your school. If it is, make use of the resource.[11]
    • If your school does not have a resource center, it may have a general resource center where you can get help on a variety of subjects.
    • You can also see if your professor does review sessions. If you're confused by a subject, a review session with a professor can help you better understand that subject.
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    Try to help someone else. Sometimes, explaining a concept to another person can help you understand it more. If you're finally getting your calculus course, and a friend is struggling, you could try offering to help him or her. You could also form a study group. If anyone is struggling with something you're beginning to understand, you can offer to help.[12]
    • When helping, explain the subject material as clear as you possibly can. In addition to explaining the process, explain why it works.
    • If you're beginning to feel very comfortable with your math skills, you could work as a private tutor for people at a lower level. Explaining math to others can help improve your math skills.
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    Ask your teacher for help. Most teachers are enthusiastic about encouraging students. If you want to be better at math, do not hesitate to ask your teacher for help. He or she may be able to give you one-on-one attention and go over problems after class.[13]
    • Do not feel bad about asking for help. Many people struggle with math, and your teacher has likely dealt with struggling students before. Your teacher is invested in seeing you succeed.
    • Be direct when asking for help, and explain the issue clearly. Do not say, "I don't get any of this." Instead, say, "I feel like I understand everything until chapter three, but polynomials are really confusing me."
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    Hire a tutor. If you feel you need a lot of one-on-one attention, consider hiring a tutor. A tutor can sit down with you a certain number of times per week and go over problems with you. A quality tutor can help math start to click for you, leading you to better understand the subject as a whole.
    • If you have a learning disability that affects your competency at math, such as dyslexia, see if you can find a tutor who works with students with disabilities. National organizations associated with your disability may be able to find you a local tutor. A medical doctor may be able to refer you to a tutor as well.[14]

Part 3
Cultivating the Right Mindset

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    Adopt a positive attitude about math. Many people self sabotage with math by convincing themselves they can't do it. If you struggled with math in high school, college, or at another point in your education, you may think you're not good at math and simply will not be able to do it. A positive attitude can help you stay motivated and feel encouraged as you attempt to hone your math skills.[15]
    • If you have a bad attitude, you will get frustrated easily. If you assume you're bad at math, when you get a problem wrong you will see that as a confirmation of this assumption. You will think to yourself, "I knew I'm no good at this. What's the point?"
    • Go into it with the right attitude. If you're currently struggling with math, don't think, "I'm bad at math." Instead, think to yourself, "I have not taken enough time to practice math, so I'm still learning. With some hard work, I know I can improve my skills."
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    Reject the notion you are naturally bad at math. Many people convince themselves they're naturally bad at math. This can lead a person to not put in the work to improve. Understand that it's a myth that people have a natural tendency towards math. Studies show everyone can learn math with a little work.[16][17]
    • Some people do have an inborn talent for math. This can help them gain an advantage early on, and they may learn more quickly in elementary school. However, most studies indicate hard work can improve your math skills just as much as a natural inclination. In fact, hard work may pay off more longterm than innate talent.
    • There are learning disorders, like dyscalculia, that can affect your ability to do math. However, even with a learning disability, you can improve your math skills with practice and proper treatment. Do not get discouraged. You are not simply bad at math. You just need practice.
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    Take math seriously. Another reason people struggle with math is that they do not take it seriously. They feel it's okay to be bad at math, or laugh it off. While you should not feel bad about yourself for struggling with math, take it seriously as a subject.[18]
    • The ability to do math can help with your reasoning skills, and mental math can make your day-to-day life less stressful.
    • Embrace math instead of disregarding it. Being good at math can be beneficial to you.
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    Stay motivated. Practice is really the only way to improve your math skills long term. There is really no magic trick that will improve your skills over night. You just have to stay motivated. Keep up with your studies and ask for help when you need it. With some time and dedication, you can become a math whiz.

Tips

  • Don't be embarrassed to ask questions when you are confused. Everyone asks questions.
  • Don't wait to study until the last minute if you have a test. Study a little bit each day.
  • Take your time. It may take you awhile to solve a difficult problem.

Article Info

Categories: Mathematics