Top Ten Tips for Studying Math

Last updated Nov 16, 2023 
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For many students, math is one subject that just seems like you either get it or you don’t. If you’re not a math whiz, your options may seem limited: study hard and still settle for mediocre results or continue to fall behind until it feels impossible to catch up. It doesn’t have to be this way. Studying math, whether it is for your sophomore geometry midterm or the ACT, is different from studying for any other subject. Still, by learning better habits now, including collecting important information, reworking problems, and having a test day game plan, students can boost both their grades and confidence. 

Study Strategies

  • Studying starts in class. Okay, yes, when you picture yourself studying, it usually involves a quiet place outside of class, but to get a head start acing the next test, you have to put in the work during class first. Listen closely as your teacher walks you through a new concept or reviews a particularly difficult homework problem. Get actively involved in your learning by asking questions either during or after class (e.g. teacher’s office hours, resource period, email). Take notes, preferably with important formulas, definitions, steps, or mnemonic devices clearly marked. When it’s time to study for an exam, rewrite your notes by hand to encode the information in your memory, so it is easier to recall on test day.
  • Make a cheat sheet. Technically it’s not cheating. It’s just a one page (or more) piece of paper (handwritten or typed) that has important formulas on the front and a glossary of key terms on the back. Create a table with formulas on the left and its purpose with an example of how to use it to solve a sample problem on the right. On the glossary page of your cheat sheet, list any new terms introduced in the chapter or unit. Regularly review and refer to your cheat sheet. When it comes time to study for midterms or finals, all of your formulas and vocabulary can be compiled into one document, ready to review.
  • Rework problems. Even worse than getting something wrong is not learning from your mistakes. That’s why you will want to take some time to revisit the problems you couldn’t answer correctly or that were harder to answer than they should have been. Follow the steps necessary to arrive at the correct answer once using the solution provided in class or an example from a textbook. Then, remove the training wheels and see if you can do it yourself, making sure to write out each step. Test yourself by finding similar problems. Think of practicing math at home like a dress rehearsal: reduce anxiety by preparing for showtime in class.
  • Create a space for studying. When you sit down to study, your environment should be as quiet and organized as possible to prevent distractions and make it easier to locate study materials. Your study space should have all the supplies you need: pencils, calculator, rulers, graph paper, textbook, etc. 
  • Time it out. Avoid procrastination that leads to cramming at the last minute; it isn’t worth it. Select a specific time every day to do homework and schedule a time at least once a week to prepare study materials (e.g. rewrite notes, formula sheets) and rework problems. Consistency is key. As soon as an exam date is on your calendar, plan on studying for at least two or three days leading up to the test. 
  • Practice, practice, practice. Beyond completing and reviewing the homework assigned in class, it’s important to incorporate other forms of practice into your study routine. Practice can be something as simple as reviewing formulas and trying to recreate them from memory or as demanding as taking a full length practice test. It’s not enough to do a few practice problems or passively stare at your notes. To reduce anxiety and prepare for whatever your exam may throw at you, try to do as much of a trial run at your exam as you can.

Test Day Tips

It’s all been building up to this: test day. After a good night’s sleep and healthy breakfast, follow these tips for your best chance at successfully translating all of your studying into scoring points on the test.

  • Write formulas ASAP. While everything is fresh in your mind, and before you get lost in a sea of test questions, write down the formulas you studied on your test paper. Not only will this make the formulas easier to refer to later, it will also free up your mind to focus on other things.
  • Read instructions carefully. Don’t assume you know how to take the test or skim directions as you rush to get to questions. Often math tests want specific work to be shown, steps to be followed, or information included. It would be a shame to get points off just because you missed or misunderstood an instruction to round to the nearest tenth, for example.
  • Check your work mindfully. We’re all human. We all make mistakes. Fortunately, on a math test you have a chance to fix them if you catch them. After you complete a question, carefully (and quickly) double check your work before moving on; make sure it’s correct and easy to read. If you have time at the end of the test, do another review; be mindful of common mistakes that you make and especially complicated problems.
  • Manage your time effectively. Running out of time to answer questions or finishing early and making lots of careless errors from rushing can be avoided with good time management. For example, prioritize questions you are more likely to get right or develop a sense of when to circle a challenging question to come back to so you can start working on something else.

 

How A+ Can Help

When it comes to studying, it’s wise to tailor your approach depending on the subject. For math, making formula sheets, reworking problems, writing up steps, following instructions carefully, checking your work for accuracy and legibility, and more will help you score well on your next quiz or test. It is also important to know that you are not alone. There aren’t many people who haven’t struggled with math at some point in their lives, and there are also people who can help you if you are having trouble. A+ Test Prep and Tutoring has skilled and supportive tutors who are ready to share their expertise, whether you need help with a specific class, with executive function skills like time management, or with test prep for the SAT or ACT.

At A+ Test Prep and Tutoring, our practices are based on the latest developments in educational theory and research. We have an excellent team of tutors who can help you with standardized testing, executive functioning, or achievement in any other school subject. If you want to find out more about our services, we can be reached at 215-886-9188 or email us at office@aplustutoring.com.

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