Subject Specific Revision: How to Study Math and Pass Your Class

By: Ali Sakr

It’s quite undeniable that most people aren’t really that fond of math. Whether you might find it frustrating, simply confusing or you actually enjoy it, I think we can agree that anything becomes a lot more fun (or bearable) once you get the hang of it. Here are a few basic tips that’ll hopefully make your life a bit easier when studying/revising math. 

1-Practice Really Makes Perfect

It’s a famous saying for a reason. No matter how hard you try to convince yourself that you “get” the concept, you’re really not going anywhere unless you learn to apply said concept in various situations. The best way to study math, by far, is to solve practice problems. This can obviously be through solving your assignments on a regular basis, but since it might be a tad too late for that, you can always solve practice exams, or chapter-specific problems when you come to revise each chapter.

When doing this, leave a mark beside any question you answer incorrectly for a serious reason. If you missed a sign or made a calculation error, it’s usually not that big of an issue unless that’s what the question is testing. If it’s a mistake that highlights a key concept you don’t fully grasp, though, that’s something to work on and get back to once you revise said concept/ask a teacher or friend about it.

2-Know your Basics & Vocab

While, in the ordinary levels of math, there’s usually not a lot of memorization required, you’ve still got your fair share of info which you need to know by heart. Examples of this include your basic arithmetic facts, vocabulary used to refer to operations, and perhaps some geometry. If you’ve got this info memorized quite well, which will probably be a lot less memorization than needed for a science, for example, you’ll have a very solid foundation to begin solving problems and understanding more complex concepts.

In higher levels of math, there’s probably a lot more you’ll need to memorize, even if most of it can often be found in a data sheet you have in your exam. Knowing things like integration techniques and trigonometric identities helps you actually find the key to solving the problem – it’s not just a matter of having them in front of you, so it’d probably be best to do your best keeping those in your memory as well.

Best way to memorize all of this is to go over it once or twice, then practice. That’s honestly one of the best things about math, so you should really try to take advantage of it.

3-Mental Math is Pretty Useful

Most high school math usually doesn’t require you to refrain from using a calculator, however, that doesn’t mean we should completely forget using our brains. If you’ve got a mental math section in your exams already, then you’re probably already quite well prepared in this regard, but even if you don’t, there’s no denying that being able to do things in your head will for sure give you a great boost in speed and confidence when solving problems. 

You can improve your mental skills by solving practice games on your phone (there are plenty of apps for this), and just generally trying to make calculations using your head whenever possible during your practice problems.

4-Make Math a lot More Fun using Visual Representations

When you think of any equation as an intersection between two functions, you’ll be surprised how much more interesting it can all get. Try to sketch out the different functions, or use a graphing app and just play around with all the functions you try out. This adds some concrete visual reference to all the letters and variables you’re constantly dealing with and manipulating, and can really open your eyes to a whole world of math you didn’t really think of before.

5-Write down your Steps

The following two entries will be a bit more concerned with actually solving problems – mainly in your actual exam – and I think this first one is probably something we all overlook when told so by our teachers. Thing is, though, this is actually really helpful. When you’re still trying to get a grasp of a concept/chapter, writing steps is essential because it really organizes your thought process and almost makes solving the kind of problem you’re working on muscle memory for your brain. When you’re really confident with a topic, you’ll often find yourself skipping a step or two when practicing, but again, this is never the thing to do in an actual exam.

Besides having a lower possibility of error, you can always be awarded a few marks for showing your working, and that’s not even mentioning that sometimes, a final answer just won’t cut it – you might be required to show all your steps.

6-It’s Okay to Give Up, Sometimes

Exams can be hard. You might run into a question that’s just really not working out for you, but you’ve still got half an exam to finish answering in an hour. Just don’t solve the problem, but never leave it blank either. Write all the working you can, all the info or rules you know regarding the topic being questioned, and an attempt at solving the question. If, perhaps, you’re missing one variable’s value, you can try producing an answer in terms of said variable. All of this will really help you get some extra marks, and will leave you a lot more psychologically prepared to move on to the rest of the questions you’ve got to solve. If by the end of the exam, and after revising, you have some extra time that you don’t really need, you can get back to the question for another attempt.

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So, that’s it for today. I just want to end this off by telling you to try to give math a chance. A lot of the time we create a preconceived notion about a topic because of all the people around us having a certain opinion, so just forget all of that for a moment. You might be surprised to find out, it’s actually not all that bad.

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