Updated: Apr 29
By Jacob Connell
For many students, math in school causes a great deal of stress and worry, and for good reason. The subject matter doesn’t always come naturally and the tests can be scary and daunting to prepare for. With the following study tips geared towards math, I hope to alleviate some of that stress and help you feel more confident the next time you sit down to take a math test.
Actually...read the textbook. The majority of people understandably don’t read math textbooks. There aren’t that many words and the teacher covers all of the same information in class. However, I have found that it is useful to read the textbook before I start studying. This serves as a primer for all of the information from the beginning of the chapter that you learned 2 weeks ago.
Practice, practice, practice. As my math teacher loved to remind me, “Practice makes better.” In the week before the test, try and do at least a few extra problems every night. If you aren’t sure where to find additional problems to work through, simply ask your teacher. Not only will they direct you to extra problems, but chances are that the types of extra problems they suggest is indicative of what will be on the test. Also, the majority of math textbooks have extra problems at the end of each section or chapter.
Practice like you play. Frequently, math teachers will hand out a practice test a few days in advance of the real one as a sort of study guide. I suggest saving this practice tests for two nights before the test. Hopefully by this point you have already reviewed most of the material and so you should be able to take the practice test as though it were the real thing. This way you can see fairly accurately which problems you really need help on, which ones just require some repetition, and which ones you have mastered. Taking the practice test two nights in advance allows you plenty of time to get help from the teacher on any lingering issues.
Study at school. If your school has an after school conference period, math study sessions, or something similar, take advantage! Studying in the same room as your teacher means that you can get any questions you may have answered right away, rather than waiting for the next class. Also, these times are great for extended help as they are usually not too crowded.
Study in a group. Studying with friends for a math test is slightly different than with other subjects. Rather than using the group to split up the workload, instead utilize the group dynamic to work through difficult problems together and check each other’s answers. One trick I suggest tossing into the mix is having some people work through the problems in order, front to back, while others work back to front. This way even the fastest worker in the group won’t have to wait for the rest of the group to catch up in order to compare answers, they can just compare with the people working through the problems the opposite way.
Flashcards. This one is straightforward. Use good old-fashioned flashcards (meaning physical ones that you have to write on) to help memorize important formulas, theorems, and rules.
Know your calculator. It is a small thing, but make sure you know how to properly use your calculator. Get familiar with all of the shortcuts and triple-check that your settings are correct before taking the test. This will save you time during the test and ensures that you don’t lose silly points because of calculator error.
Ideally, you will have enough time to utilize every study tool here, but realistically you won’t always have time to do so. Thus, be sure to experiment with what works best for you.
Jacob Connell is sophomore at George Washington University in Washington, DC.