For many of us, learning math feels like an impossible achievement. What the teacher says goes right over our heads, and every day seems to get more confusing than the next. While the confusion and frustration of learning and applying math can be enough to make you quit, don’t give up yet. There could be many reasons you’re struggling, and identifying them can help you find ways to improve.
1. Too much focus on memorization and not enough on how things work
Math can actually tell a story, but often, the way we learn it is to simply memorize. Try to backtrack and ask why a formula applies. Even better, figure out where the formula comes from in the first place.
2. Lack of practical application
Try taking your math problem into the real world. Angles may seem arbitrary until you realize how important they are to winning a game of pool! The principles surrounding how they work will also make more sense.
3. Overly focusing on the process, instead of what it means
A lot of how we learn math focuses on steps to get an answer. Try taking a step back. Try to solve a problem by using what you know and what makes logical sense in the real world of numbers. While you likely might end up at a wrong answer, you’ll have a much better sense of how to use the tools you’ve gained to not only solve the problem in front of you but different problems using similar concepts.
4. Not understanding mathematical symbols
Just like English, math is a language that uses its own symbols to communicate meaning. A lot of errors stem from basic misunderstandings of what a symbol means. Brush up on basic math symbols to be sure you don’t misinterpret what you’re seeing.
5. Learning complexities before learning the basics
Often times we get confused as we get deeper into a curriculum because we haven’t really mastered the underlying principles. Go back and brush up on the core concepts that form the basis for more complex ideas and equations.
6. Lack of interest
For some, any way you slice it, math is boring. Find ways to make it personal or fun, for instance, changing the information in a world problem so that it’s about your and your friends, and a place or thing you cherish.
7. Lack of motivation
Learning anything new is challenging and often times, we’d rather work on things we know we’re good at than on things we know we struggle with. Make it rewarding by giving yourself a special treat for different milestones, for instance, allow yourself a cookie break if you are able to both apply and explain how to calculate the height of a right triangle.
8. Learning in SILOS and ignoring the connections
Math concepts are interrelated and work together to explain the numerical world. Try to identify connections between concepts you are learning instead of treating them as separate.
9. Not practicing with a variety of problems
Doing the same three problems over and over again will help you memorize how to solve the problems but not help you do a different problem using the same idea on a test. Find additional exercises so that you can try a full range of problems stemming from the same lesson.
10. Staying in your head
The best way to test if you know something? Explaining it aloud to someone else. Try this when you’re struggling with a concept and you’ll easily identify which areas trip you up. Talking it out might also help you figure out what you’re not quite getting.
Remember, like with all change, progress takes time. Take little steps and stay focused and diligent. And when in doubt, you can always contact one of our excellent tutors to help you out.