How to Learn Math

Six Parts:Keys to Being a Good Math StudentLearning Math in SchoolMath Fundamentals--Ace Some AdditionMath Fundamentals--Strategies for SubtractionMath Fundamentals--Master MultiplicationMath Fundamentals--Discover Division

Anyone can learn math whether they're in higher math at school or just looking to brush up on the basics. After discussing ways to be a good math student, this article will teach you the basic progression of math courses and will give you the basic elements that you'll need to learn in each course. Then, the article will go through the basics of learning arithmetic, which will help both kids in elementary school and anyone else who needs to brush up on the fundamentals.

Part 1
Keys to Being a Good Math Student

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    Show up for class. When you miss class, you have to learn the concepts either from a classmate or from your textbook. You'll never get as good of an overview from your friends or from the text as you will from your teacher.
    • Come to class on time. In fact, come a little early and open your notebook to the right place, open your textbook and take out your calculator so that you're ready to start when your teacher is ready to start.
    • Only skip class if you are sick. When you do miss class, talk to a classmate to find out what the teacher talked about and what homework was assigned.
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    Work along with your teacher. If your teacher works problems at the front of your class, then work along with the teacher in your notebook.
    • Make sure that your notes are clear and easy to read. Don't just write down the problems. Also write down anything that the teacher says that increases your understanding of the concepts.
    • Work any sample problems that your teacher posts for you to do. When the teacher walks around the classroom as you work, answer questions.
    • Participate while the teacher is working a problem. Don't wait for your teacher to call on you. Volunteer to answer when you know the answer, and raise your hand to ask questions when you're unsure of what's being taught.
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    Do your homework the same day as it's assigned. When you do the homework the same day, the concepts are fresh on your mind. Sometimes, finishing your homework the same day isn't possible. Just make sure that your homework is complete before you go to class.
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    Make an effort outside of class if you need help. Go to your teacher during his or her free period or during office hours.
    • If you have a Math Center at your school, then find out the hours that it's open and go get some help.
    • Join a study group. Good study groups usually contain 4 or 5 people at a good mix of ability levels. If you're a "C" student in math, then join a group that has 2 or 3 "A" or "B" students so that you can raise your level. Avoid joining a group full of students whose grades are lower than yours.[1]

Part 2
Learning Math in School

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    Start with arithmetic. In most schools, students work on arithmetic during the elementary grades. Arithmetic includes the fundamentals of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.
    • Work on drills. Doing a lot of arithmetic problems again and again is the best way to get the fundamentals down pat. Look for software that will give you lots of different math problems to work on. Also, look for timed drills to increase your speed.
    • Repetition is the basis of math. The concept has to be not only learned, but put to work for you to remember it!
    • You can also find arithmetic drills online, and you can download arithmetic apps onto your mobile device.
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    Progress to pre-algebra. This course will provide the building blocks that you'll need to solve algebra problems later on.
    • Learn about fractions and decimals. You'll learn to add, subtract, multiply and divide both fractions and decimals. Regarding fractions, you'll learn how to reduce fractions and interpret mixed numbers. Regarding decimals, you'll understand place value, and you'll be able to use decimals in word problems.
    • Study ratios, proportions and percentages. These concepts will help you to learn about making comparisons.
    • Solve squares and square roots. When you've mastered this topic, you'll have perfect squares of many numbers memorized. You'll also be able to work with equations containing square roots.
    • Introduce yourself to basic geometry. You'll learn all of the shapes as well as 3D concepts. You'll also learn concepts like area, perimeter, volume and surface area, as well as information about parallel and perpendicular lines and angles.
    • Understand some basic statistics. In pre-algebra, your introduction to statistics mostly includes visuals like graphs, scatter plots, stem-and-leaf plots and histograms.
    • Learn algebra basics. These will include concepts like solving simple equations containing variables, learning about properties like the distributive property, graphing simple equations and solving inequalities.
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    Advance to Algebra I. In your first year of algebra, you will learn about the basic symbols involved in algebra. You'll also learn to:
    • Solve linear equations and inequalities that contain 1-2 variables. You'll learn how to solve these problems not only on paper, but sometimes on a calculator as well.
    • Tackle word problems. You'll be surprised how many everyday problems that you'll face in your future involve the ability to solve algebraic word problems. For example, you'll use algebra to figure out the interest rate that you earn on your bank account or on your investments. You can also use algebra to figure out how long you'll have to travel based on the speed of your car.
    • Work with exponents. When you start solving equations with polynomials (expressions containing both numbers and variables), you'll have to understand how to use exponents. This may also include working with scientific notation. Once you have exponents down, you can learn to add, subtract, multiply and divide polynomial expressions.
    • Understand functions and graphs. In algebra, you'll really get into graphic equations. You'll learn how to calculate the slope of a line, how to put equations into point-slope form, and how to calculate the x- and y-intercepts of a line using slope-intercept form.
    • Figure out systems of equations. Sometimes, you're given 2 separate equations with both x and y variables, and you have to solve for x or y for both equations. Fortunately, you'll learn many tricks for solving these equation including graphing, substitution and addition.[2]
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    Get into geometry. In geometry, you'll learn about the properties of lines, segments, angles and shapes.[3]
    • You'll memorize a number of theorems and corollaries that will help you to understand the rules of geometry.
    • You'll learn how to calculate the area of a circle, how to use the Pythagorean theorem and how to figure out relationships between angles and sides of special triangles.
    • You'll see a lot of geometry on future standardized tests like the SAT, the ACT and the GRE.
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    Take on Algebra II. Algebra II builds on the concepts that you learned in Algebra I but adds more complex topics involving more complex non-linear functions and matrices.
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    Tackle trigonometry. You know the words of trig: sine, cosine, tangent, etc. Trigonometry will teach you many practical ways to calculate angles and lengths of lines, and these skills will be invaluable for people who go into construction, architecture, engineering or surveying.
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    Count on some calculus. Calculus may sound intimidating, but it's an amazing tool chest for understanding both the behavior of numbers and the world around you.
    • Calculus will teach you about functions and about limits. You'll see the behavior or a number of useful functions including e^x and logarithmic functions.
    • You'll also learn how to calculate and work with derivatives. A first derivative gives you information based on the slope of a tangent line to an equation. For instance, a derivative tells you the rate at which something is changing in a non-linear situation. A second derivative will tell you whether a function is increasing or decreasing along a certain interval so that you can determine the concavity of a function.
    • Integrals will teach you how to calculate the area beneath a curve as well as volume.
    • High school calculus usually ends with sequences and series. Although students won't see many applications for series, they are important to people who go on to study differential equations.
    • Calculus is still only the beginning for some. If you are considering a career with a high involvement of math and science, like an engineer, try going a bit farther![4]

Part 3
Math Fundamentals--Ace Some Addition

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    Start with "+1" facts. Adding 1 to a number takes you to the next highest number on the number line. For example, 2 + 1 = 3.
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    Understand zeroes. Any number added to zero equals the same number because "zero" is the same as "nothing."
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    Learn doubles. Doubles are problems that involve adding two of the same number. For example, 3 + 3 = 6 is an example of an equation involving doubles.
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    Use mapping to learn about other addition solutions. In the example below, you learn through mapping what happens when you add 3 to 5, 2 and 1. Try the "add 2" problems on your own.
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    Go beyond 10. Learn to add 3 numbers together to get a number larger than 10.
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    Add larger numbers. Learn about regrouping 1s into the 10s place, 10s into the 100s place, etc.
    • Add the numbers in the right column first. 8 + 4 = 12, which means you have 1 10 and 2 1s. Write down the 2 under the 1s column.
    • Write the 1 over the 10s column.
    • Add the 10s column together.

Part 4
Math Fundamentals--Strategies for Subtraction

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    Start with "backwards 1." Subtracting 1 from a number takes you backwards 1 number. For example, 4 - 1 = 3.
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    Learn doubles subtraction. For instance, you add the doubles 5 + 5 to get 10. Just write the equation backward to get 10 - 5 = 5.
    • If 5 + 5 = 10, then 10 - 5 = 5.
    • If 2 + 2 = 4, then 4 - 2 = 2.
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    Memorize fact families. For example:
    • 3 + 1 = 4
    • 1 + 3 = 4
    • 4 - 1 = 3
    • 4 - 3 = 1
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    Find the missing numbers. For example, ___ + 1 = 6 (the answer is 5). This also sets the foundation for algebra and beyond.
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    Memorize subtraction facts up to 20.
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    Practice subtracting 1-digit numbers from 2-digit numbers without borrowing. Subtract the numbers in the 1s column and bring down the number in the 10s column.
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    Practice place value to prepare for subtracting with borrowing.
    • 32 = 3 10s and 2 1s.
    • 64 = 6 10s and 4 1s.
    • 96 = __ 10s and __ 1s.
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    Subtract with borrowing.
    • You want to subtract 42 - 37. You start by trying to subtract 2 - 7 in the 1s column. However, that doesn't work!
    • Borrow 10 from the 10s column and put it into the 1s column. Instead of 4 10s, you now have 3 10s. Instead of 2 1s, you now have 12 1s.
    • Subtract your 1s column first: 12 - 7 = 5. Then, check the 10s column. Since 3 - 3 = 0, you don't have to write 0. Your answer is 5.[5]

Part 5
Math Fundamentals--Master Multiplication

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    Start with 1s and 0s. Any number times 1 is equal to itself. Any number times zero equals zero.
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    Memorize the multiplication table.
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    Practice single-digit multiplication problems
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    Multiply 2-digit numbers times 1-digit numbers.
    • Multiply the bottom right number by the top right number.
    • Multiply the bottom right number by the top left number.
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    Multiply 2 2-digit numbers.
    • Multiply the bottom right number by the top right and then the top left numbers.
    • Shift the second row one digit to the left.
    • Multiply the bottom left number by the top right and then the top left numbers.
    • Add the columns together.
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    Multiply and regroup the columns.
    • You want to multiply 34 x 6. You start by multiplying the 1s column (4 x 6), but you can't have 24 1s in the 1s column.
    • Keep 4 1s in the 1s column. Move the 2 10s over to the 10s column.
    • Multiply 6 x 3, which equals 18. Add the 2 that you carried over, which will equal 20.

Part 6
Math Fundamentals--Discover Division

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    Think of division as the opposite of multiplication. If 4 x 4 = 16, then 16 / 4 = 4.
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    Write out your division problem.
    • Divide the number to the left of the division symbol, or the divisor, into the first number under the division symbol. Since 6 / 2 = 3, you'll write 3 on top of the division symbol.
    • Multiply the number on top of the division symbol by the divisor. Bring the product down under the first number under the division symbol. Since 3 x 2 = 6, then you'll bring a 6 down.
    • Subtract the 2 numbers that you've written. 6 - 6 = 0. You can leave the 0 blank also, since you don't usually start a new number with 0.
    • Bring the second number that is under the division symbol down.
    • Divide the number that you brought down by the divisor. In this case, 8 / 2 = 4. Write 4 on top of the division symbol.
    • Multiply the top right number by the divisor and bring the number down. 4 x 2 = 8.
    • Subtract the numbers. The final subtraction equals zero, which means that you have finished the problem. 68 / 2 = 34.[6]
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    Account for remainders. Some divisors won't divide evenly into other numbers. When you've finished your final subtraction, and you have no more numbers to bring down, then the final number is your remainder.[7]


  • Mathematics is not a passive activity. You cannot learn mathematics by reading a textbook. Use online tools or worksheets from your teacher to practice problems until you understand the concepts.
  • Concepts is the part of math that cannot be forsaken. Sometimes it is better to know the concepts and get it wrong than to not know the concepts and get it right.
  • Practice topic by topic. Master a topic at a time, so that you can find out your strengths and weaknesses. Once you've got all the topics covered, start doing practice papers. The more practice, the better!


  • Don't become dependent on a calculator. Learn to solve the problems by hand so that you understand the step-by-step process. However, a calculator may become necessary in higher level math courses in high school and college.

Things You'll Need

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Categories: Mathematics