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How to Rekindle Your Love for Maths After Finishing School

From Imogen, published on 29/05/2017 We Love Prof - UK > Academia > Maths > Learning Maths: Theory and Practice of Re-learning

Everyone has their own experiences and opinions on maths.

Whether good or bad, we all know that it can sometimes seem a bit dull.

But what should you do if you want to apply for jobs that involve math? Or if you need to learn or relearn certain areas of math or improve your mental maths for any reason?

Are there any maths tricks or techniques that can help you get over your fear of the subject?

How do you approach maths as a new learner? Do you need the help of a certified teacher?

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Maths: A Second Language

Learning maths is comparable to learning a foreign language since it has its own vocabulary, rules and way of thinking.

Just like a language, even if you learn all the vocabulary (or in this case, theorems), it will quickly disappear if you don’t put it to use in context.

The practical applications of math in real life are infinite Maths is the language of numbers, science and everyday life ¦ source: Pixabay

Maths isn’t a passive subject, you need to actively put in the work to get something out of it.

Maths is not learnt, it is practised.

In order to learn how to solve problems with fluency, you’ll have to understand the workings of the maths solutions.

Every aspect of mathematics links together. From times tables to algebra to geometry to probability to calculus to arithmetic to triangles to quadratic equations to reasoning, the key to maths mastery is gaining an appreciation of the relationships between different math concepts.

Everyone encounters mathematics at some point. Whether you’re an A level student, an undergraduate, studying for certain exams, or simply looking to improve your maths proficiency, there is a way to get back on top form with maths.

Rest assured, everyone is capable of studying maths!

Learn By Yourself or With a Teacher

There are many ways to get back into doing maths, but it generally boils down to two options: you either teach yourself or learn math with a teacher.

Teaching Yourself Maths isn’t Impossible

If you find yourself needing to study maths without a mentor, or would just prefer to go it alone, don’t worry – being a self-taught mathematician is perfectly possible!

There are plenty of textbooks and other maths resources that can be easily found on the internet to keep you on track with your mathematics education. Follow video tutorials on Youtube with teachers such as Mr Barton Maths or make use of BBC Skillswise maths guides. You can even find year-long maths courses.

Free online math aids will help you focus on specific mathematical concepts as they talk you through solutions.

E-learning is an excellent way to optimise your learning journey and you can even do it for free! OpenLearn from The Open University offers hundreds of courses of all levels and durations – and you can start whenever you like! Work at your own pace, track your progress and receive a certificate of participation at the end.

The Open University is just one example of the many online distance learning organisations, and you can do anything from a free short course to a maths degree!

If you decide to pay for a course, you will usually receive video maths lessons with exercises to complete and submit to the teacher.

This method of learning doesn’t always end with an official qualification, however, you will gain useful math skills and knowledge.

The suitability and flexible schedule of distance learning is making it increasingly popular. Whether you’re at university or have a full-time or part-time job, the course works around you.

You could also look for school support websites aimed at helping children with their school subjects as they progress through their academic careers. You can sign up to platforms such as IXL maths (which you have to pay for, but it’s only £7.99 a month) or even look at BBC Bitesize Maths.

Websites like these often list topics according to the school year and level (year 5 maths or GCSE maths revision for example) so you can have a go at some free maths worksheets and quizzes to see where you are in your learning, as well as set yourself some goals.

And if you fancy a maths workout, why not play some free online maths games for kids? Maths websites such as Hoodamath and Math Playground offer relevant and fun maths games to help you discover that maths is fun! And if you’d like to practice maths on-the-go, why not have a look for some math games apps for your smartphone or tablet?

You can start where you feel comfortable and see how far you’d like to go, from counting and the number line to equivalent fractions and geometric math problems.

Learning Maths with a Teacher

Math’s isn’t an easy subject if you’re just encountering it for the first time.

Of course, having a logical mind and good problem-solving skills helps.

However, not everyone has a ‘mathematical mind’. Some people are more creative and tend to think outside of the box – but this isn’t an issue since, according to Professor Jo Boaler, anyone can train their brain to think mathematically!

The best mindset for learning is a positive one.

Having a mentor can give you the encouragement and motivation you need to keep going Find a tutor or maths teacher to guide you along the way ¦ source: Visualhunt

So how do you get in touch with someone who is qualified to teach maths? There are several options:

  • Look for classes in local schools, colleges and universities: Many educational institutions are used to host math courses during the evenings, so it’s worth looking around and seeing what’s available near you.
  • Go to an adult education organisation: These companies cater exclusively to adults who want to improve their knowledge in a certain area and are quite common in the UK.
  • Take night classes: Adult math education doesn’t just take place in school, but in town halls, village halls and conference centres too. Math lessons are usually delivered in the evenings to allow people time to make their way from their place of work.
  • Get a private maths tutorThere are many different ways to find yourself a one to one tutor depending on whether you want to learn maths online or face-to-face, and what level you wish to achieve. You can look for tutors advertising in local shops and newspapers or use an online platform such as Superprof to find a registered teacher near you.

The advantage to having a private maths tutor is that you have the full, undivided attention of your teacher, and no one else to distract you.

When it comes to setting goals, having an educator to guide you can be invaluable since they know what key points you should be working on and how to adapt teaching to your personal learning style.

Your maths tutor will assess you and create a tailored learning plan based on your strengths and weaknesses. This aspect of teaching math is vital for many learners of maths who struggle with traditional methods.

Unlike organised mathematics courses, with private math tutoring, you can go at your own pace and not worry about asking silly questions in front of your classmates.

The Practicalities of Relearning Maths

Relearning maths demands dedicating your time and plenty of willpower.

You also need to optimise your workspace for learning.

Make a maths study area which is right for you with minimal distractions The right environment is key to getting the most out of your course ¦ source: Pixabay

Give yourself the best chance of success in maths by creating the right learning environment. Set aside a space that you can dedicate to learning and get rid of as many distractions as you can.

This means putting your mobile phone out of reach and on silent, closing all open social media tabs on your computer, and letting those around you know that you need to be spending time on your studies.

Revision Flashcards

This method of learning not only allows you to understand the content of your math course but will also help you remember important formulae, theorems and maths facts as well as specific maths vocabulary.

Flashcards let you consolidate your knowledge by moving away from the textbook and putting things into your own words, drawing diagrams, and creating your own colour-coded system.

You can have a set of math revision cards for each topic (such as Pythagorean theorem, trigonometry, differential equations, graphing, polynomial functions, factorising and integration), or for each level of your learning plan.

This method is useful if you learn visually or by testing yourself, allowing you to add your own definitions and a structure that makes sense to you.

Personalisation is the key to success when it comes to revision flashcards and learning in general. A tailored learning plan which is based on your individual learning strategies is the most effective way of making sure you retain important information.

You don’t need fancy software or even a computer to make these interactive math resources – just some paper and coloured pencils!

Past Exam Papers

Whether you’re trying to get back into the swing of conquering maths questions on a regular basis, or just looking at practising a new maths concept, maths past papers are a great way to get to grips with exam question format.

You can usually find these online along with the relevant formulae booklets and maths answers.

The best way of learning how to tackle certain big maths problems is to practice different questions on the same topic over and over again. This means that you can see what you did right and where you went wrong, so you can do better next time and make answering in a certain way an automatic reaction.

It’s not enough to just do questions – you really need to understand where the answers are coming from.

Learning Maths Using LEGO

Alycia Zimmerman, a math teacher from New York, uses a simple yet effective method to help her pupils with their number sense.

Learning through methods other than reading and listening to course content can offer a change of scenery and add a fun side to maths.

This creative method that combines maths and LEGO puts forward a positive initiative to teach math in a completely different yet practical way. LEGO can be used to demonstrate basic math such as addition and subtraction, as well as multiplication and division or fractions and decimals.

Bringing a playful side to maths can help you appreciate that maths is fun!

A positive mindset make for the best learning outcomes Forgetting the numbers and focusing on what you can see brings a new life to learning maths ¦ source: Pixabay

When learning or relearning a subject that is such an important part of day-to-day and professional life:

  • Take your time and make sure you don’t miss any details
  • Create a designated math zone where you can give questions your full attention
  • Develop a pragmatic and logical mindset
  • Practice exercises until they become second nature
  • Realise that there is only one correct answer to every maths question

And one last piece of advice: don’t be tempted to skip sections of your learning programme.

Each part of the maths curriculum is important for a different reason, and missing one out puts you at risk of not understanding something further down the line.

All mathematical topics are interlinked, so dedicating enough time to learning each one will set you up for success in the future.

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