Getting good at maths is the dream for many students, especially those wanting to take the subject at A Level (AS or A2) and beyond onto university after they finish their GCSEs.
However, we have to agree on one thing: we don’t all have the same abilities when it comes to maths.
Some people find algebra easier, others geometry or probabilities and then there’s also a lot of people who have trouble solving an equation or cry at the sight of fractions.
It’s clear that everyone has different skills in this subject but it doesn’t just come down to skills, the methodology is also hugely important.
For example, some students learn better quietly doing activities from worksheets or a textbook whereas others prefer a hands-on rational approach factoring in support from the teacher.
How much time do you need to get good at maths?
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Evaluating how many maths tutorials you’ll need is very subjective: very young students might just need to practice addition and subtraction before moving on to multiplication and division. Older student may require much longer programme as they tackle trigonometry, word problems, and calculus.
Time is very subjective. (Source: Movie Pilot)
If you’re enrolled on a course in any educational establishment (be it SATs at primary school, GCSE maths revision at secondary school, A Levels at sixth form, or a degree at university), the number of maths classes is fixed by the course you’re studying. Unless there’s a high probability of the student wanting to continue tutorials outside of term time.
If you want to take maths classes, this will depend on your level and your needs. A private maths tutor can come to your house and evaluate what gaps you have in your knowledge, what you need, and what you expect (Are you getting ready for an exam? Do you need help with your homework? Are there any mathematical concepts that you need to go over again in full?)
The tutor will then suggest how many classes are necessary and, once the student agrees (or they coordinate with their parents), they can work out a schedule for the tutorials.
One thing is certain, routine is very important: Your brain needs to train every day, and it takes two days to read, understand, and retain information.
Getting good at maths isn’t necessarily a question of abilities. We’ve seen that it can also come down to how you prepare and how you tackle maths. A very young student counting whole numbers and adding and subtracting obviously won’t take the same approach as older students looking at exponent, differential, quadratic, or linear equations and complex numbers.
Your method is key to your success. (Source: Emaze)
If you’re disorganised, your thinking will be too. You won’t be able do anything with the numbers and formulae in front of you.
Here are a few tips and tricks on how to become a good maths student.
This can sound like a bit of a paradox when we’re talking about maths. However, it’s useless learning everything off by heart if you don’t have a clue how to use what you’ve learnt.
It’s great to learn dozens of formulae but if you don’t know how to apply them, it’ll all be for nothing. If you can’t manage simple algebraic formulae, don’t try solving a polynomial equation.
Succeeding in maths tutorials boils down to being able to explain your reasoning.
Try to understand the reasoning, what it’s for, and how it works.
You’ll find your progress to be exponential and soon you’ll be able to calculate results which you understand, rather than just memorising these results off by heart.
Learning and understanding maths is the best way to use it.
This is why you should never just stop because you’ve completed an exercise without making a mistake. That doesn’t mean you’ve fully understood everything!
If you make mistakes, you should always go back over them, try to understand why, then do some other exercises.
It’s tempting but you mustn’t ever look at the answers!
Getting stuck on an exercise can be one of the best ways to learn maths and understand it.
If you keep looking for the answer because you’re stuck, you’ll end up picking up solutions you can use for other maths problems. The next time you tackle a similar problem, it’ll only take a fraction of the time.
To get good at maths, it’s important to not get distracted but to always focus on what you have to do.
Your brain needs to think exclusively about “mathematics”.
Get rid of any distractions such as your mobile phone.
Take the time and make a habit of fully completing every tutorial; pay attention and you’re already halfway there.
Always keep your supplies such as textbooks, exercise books, rulers, pencils, calculators close to you.
These are simple and easy rules to follow but you have to always follow them if you’re going to succeed in maths.
Like we said before, if you want to become good at maths, you have to keep working until you’ve completely understood your lesson.
If you’re the student, going to classes isn’t always enough. Whether you’re at school or taking night classes, you have to regularly practice maths at home. It might even be worthwhile considering at home tutoring so that you can keep practicing.
Practice really does make perfect. This is how you master any given subject.
When you’re in a tutorial with your private teacher, take note of their corrections and make sure you ask for explanations of why you made the mistakes.
In maths, more than any other subject, curiosity pays off.
As soon as you have any doubts, are confused, or something isn’t clear, make sure you ask why.
The phrasing of one person may be much clearer than that of another. You might understand it better just because they used different expressions.
By knowing how to identify your problems, you can deal with them and then become better at maths.
Maths statements often contain the elements you’ll find in the answer or at least elements to help you think about the problem logically.
Don’t ignore these statements: read them fully, find out how many exercises there are, the time they’ll take, and identify which exercises you find the easiest.
Some people prefer to start with the simpler exercises while others prefer the complicated ones. It’s up to you to decide which strategy will best manage your stress levels.
Finally, carefully read every word in the statement.
This will help you understand the subject, avoid errors in comprehension, and also recognise the different parts of the exercise.
Knowing how to read a statement is not like reading a book: be methodical when you read and distinguish yourself from most students.
We’re talking about actively reading the statement. This means that while you’re reading, you’re also thinking about the concepts and formulae related to the statement.
Your maths tutor is there to guide you on your way. In addition to their teaching skills, they’ll also provide you with the tools to better complete your maths exercises.
Are you still waiting to start your maths tutorials? Have a look at our article: 10 Good Reasons to Take Maths Lessons.
There are plenty of different tools to help you in maths. For example:
To get good at maths, you don’t always have to take classes, you can also learn to avoid common errors. Focusing on how to avoid these common mistakes is a great way to improve.
Not every student is as smart as Albert Einstein. In fact, each student has their own strengths and weaknesses.
With all these different examples, there’s not a perfect number of maths tutorials to take. A lot depends on the student, their level, the gaps in their knowledge, their motivation, and their ambition.
Routine is hugely important. It’s the price you have to pay to get good at maths. Follow this practical maths advice!
Joseph is a French and Spanish to English translator, English tutor, and all-round language enthusiast.
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