Here are some quick steps to help you get better at doing mathematics. Regardless of age, the tips here will help you learn and understand math concepts from primary school right on through to university math. Everyone can do math, be positive and follow the steps here and you'll be on your way to seeing success in math.
Understanding Versus Memorizing
All too often, we will try to memorize a procedure or sequence of steps instead of looking to understand why certain steps are required in a procedure. Always, always strive for understanding the why and not just the how. Take the algorithm for long division
Typically, we say, "how many times does 3 go into 7" when the question is 73 divided by 3. After all, that 7 represents 70 or 7 tens. The understanding in this question really has little to do with how many times 3 goes into 7 but rather how many
are in the group of three when you share the 73 into 3 groups. 3 going into 7 is merely a short cut. Putting 73 into 3 groups means understanding. The long division algorithm rarely makes sense unless the concrete method is fully understood.
Math is Not a Spectator Sport, Get Active!
Unlike some subjects, math is something that won't let you be a passive learner. Math is the subject that will often put you out of the comfort zone, don't worry as this is normal and part of the learning process. Try to make connections in math, many of the concepts in math are related and connected. The more connections you can make, the greater the understanding will be. Math concepts flow through levels of difficulty, start from where you are and move forward to the more difficult levels only when understanding is in place. The internet has a wealth of interactive math sites that let you engage, be sure use them.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Do as many problems as is required to ensure you understand the concept. Some of us require more practice and some of us require less practice. You will want to practice a concept until it makes sense and until you are fluent at finding solutions to various problems within the concept readily. Strive for those 'A Ha!' moments. When you can get 7 varied questions in a row right, you're probably to the point of understanding. Even more so if you re-visit the questions a few months later and are still capable of solving them. This too is key to understanding. Be sure to check out the worksheet section
for lots of practice examples.
This is similar to practice. Think of math the way one thinks about a musical instrument. Most of us don't just sit down and play an instrument. We take lessons, practice, practice some more and although we move on, we still take time to review. Go beyond what is asked for. Your instructor tells you to do questions 1-20, even numbers only. Well, that may work for some, but others may need to do each of the questions to reach the point of fluency with the concept. Doing the extra practice questions only helps you to grasp the concept more readily. And, as always, be sure to re-visit a few months later, do some practice questions to ensure that you still have a grasp of it.
Some people like to work alone. However, when it comes to solving problems, it often helps to have a work buddy. You know the saying: two heads are better than one. Sometimes a work buddy can help clarify a concept for you by looking at it in a different way. Organize a study group or work in pairs or triads! In real life we often work through problems with others. Math is no different. A work buddy also provides you with the opportunity to discuss how you solved the math problem. And as you'll see in this list of tips, conversing about math leads too permanent understanding and you know that understanding is key.
Explain and Question
Try to explain to somebody else how you solve math concepts. Teach a friend. Or, keep a journal. It's often important to state either in writing or orally how you solved your math problems/exercises. Question problems, ask yourself, What would happen if.......I solved it this way because.....
Remember William Glasser's findings: 10% of what we READ
20% of what we HEAR
30% of what we SEE
50% of what we SEE and HEAR
70% of what is DISCUSSED with OTHERS
80% of what is EXPERIENCED PERSONALLY
95% of what we TEACH TO SOMEONE ELSE
Seek help when it's appropriate. Don't let yourself get stuck and frustrated. Seek extra clarification when needed, be your own advocate! Whether you have a friend or need to hire a tutor, recognize the point at which you need help - then get it! Most of us need help some of the time, if you let it go too long, you'll discover that the math will only become more frustrating for you. Here's a handy tips for getting a tutor