Mathematics is an intimidating subject to most students, but to the few who understand it and know its secrets, it is actually one of the easiest subjects.
It, therefore, means that one of the major reasons math is hard for many students is because they don’t understand it and don’t know those secrets about mathematics.
I’m not a math guru, I didn’t even study mathematics. What I studied was mechanical engineering, but if you know about mechanical engineering you will know that it applies math and physics a lot. So I have my own fair share of mathematics, at least more than many students will ever have.
In this article, I want to share with you some tips that will help you learn and understand math easily. These tips are based on my own experience and I am pretty sure many of you guys will find it useful.
So, let’s get started!
1. Learn math in order
One of the most important secrets I learned about mathematics is that it is a continuous subject because the next higher concepts build on the more basic concepts that you were taught before them. This means that if you don’t know those basics it will be quite difficult to learn the next higher topics.
Take for example when you were a kid you were thought something like:
2 ÷ 2 = ?
But as you move a bit further they decided to “confuse you” by adding x to the equation and gave you this instead (and asked you to find x):
2x + 2 = 4, find x
Looking at the two equations you can see that the first one is a simple division, that is, 2/2 = 1
But if you don’t know simple division it simply means you will have a tough time finding x in the second question because a typical solution to that question will be:
2x + 2 = 4
2x = 4 – 2 = 2
x = 2/2 = 1
Eventually, you have to know how to do the division to find x.
I know the example I gave above is very basic, but it doesn’t matter because this same thing applies to higher-level mathematics. From a simple find x like in above, you get to quadratic equations, polynomials of orders higher than 2, etc.
Math is a step by step thing. Don’t skip steps!
2. Understand the theory
Every math problem has the underlying theories or principles that when you understand them it becomes very easy to tackle any problem on that topic.
This is very important and will help you have a really sound understanding of mathematics!
Take for example quadratic equations that are taught in Junior Secondary Schools. As far back as I can remember there are three different ways of solving quadratic namely
- completing the square
- almighty formula
When you understand the theory and these principles or techniques of solving quadratic problems and you are able to solve say x2 + 4x = 0, you can definitely solve 3x2 + 24x + 1= 0, x2 + 8 = 0, etc. In fact, you can solve ANY quadratic because you know the theory to solve quadratics!
3. Don’t read math!
Don’t read math, solve it instead! Some students read math as though they are reading some novels. But another important math secret is that to understand it better and have it stick in your memory for a long time you need to learn by solving it.
This does not mean that there should never be a time when you should just read math. You should whenever necessary, nothing wrong with that.
But the point I am trying to make is that you should not form the habit of reading math, instead, form the habit of solving it because that is how you learn it faster.
When you try to solve math problems it is likely going to seem more difficult and more time consuming than just reading the questions and solutions provided by someone else. This is a normal thing and it is good because it means you are actually learning it.
You understand it by attempting the questions yourself and the little tough time it gave you will make it stick longer in your memory. I don’t know the science behind that but I know it works!
4. Don’t be afraid of math
The fear of math is the beginning of the fear of math. Hmm… that doesn’t sound like what I wanted to say.
Anyway, what I wanted to say is that you don’t have to be afraid of math. It is nothing to be afraid of.
In fact, math is such an easy subject because once you understand the principles you can solve any question thrown at you from that topic. For example, knowing to solve a quadratic automatically means you can solve it, even if the question is twisted a thousand different ways!
Is that something to be scared of, even when compared to other subjects? No!
And let me be honest here, if you need mathematics you should not be afraid of it. This is not an option, it is the only way.
5. Have study buddies
There is this saying that “two heads are better than one”. I believe this is also true for learning mathematics. It is a good idea to study math with other serious students.
This doesn’t mean you have to study with someone every time you want to study math. But whenever necessary, learn with your study group, classmates or friends.
In a group study, everyone can bring their challenges, ideas, and solutions. You can learn from all these and progress faster.
Finally, math is real!
And finally, my friend, I want to give you a bonus tip: try to relate math to real-life problems that it truly solves. The truth is that there are practical real-life applications of mathematics and the more you try to relate math problems to real-life situation the more you appreciate learning it.
Don’t believe it? Here is a real-life example for you. Post your answer in the comment section below.
Question: You’re on your way to school, you are almost late but still 900m away. If the bus that is taking you to the school gate is traveling at a speed of 70km per hour, how long, approximately, in minutes will it take you to get to school, assuming no traffic, police checkpoints and other similar constraints?
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