When it comes to excelling at math, some of the simplest steps are most effective - and often overlooked.
Getting a failing grade in math and struggling with the content can feel like you're drowning without a view of the surface. How can you escape and start raising your grade?
As a math student for 16 years and now a high school math teacher, I have had a lot of practice and learned a few shortcuts along the way that I would like to share with you. Getting an A in math is about mastery and practice, and here are some specific and fast things you can do to be good at math… even great!
1. Take detailed notes (that you can understand).
Rather than writing down every problem your teacher puts on the board word for word, make it your own. Write down the work, but next to each step explain it in your own words. Then, take a few minutes after each class to look over your notes again and see if you can add any more explanations. Even if you are struggling during class, write down everything you can so that you can try and make sense of it later.
The goal is to be able to look back over your notes in one day, three weeks, or three months and still understand what you did. It is better to write down something than nothing.
2. Complete your homework the day it is assigned.
Students who struggle the most tend to be those who don’t complete assignments on time. A key to getting an A in math is to stop procrastinating and finish work as early as possible.
An easy way to do this is to complete all homework assignments the day they are assigned. By doing this, you can plan in advance what questions you want to ask your teacher or what you need to review to get the best grade on the assignment. In almost all math classes, homework makes up a bigger portion of your grade than you think. Get all the points possible by completing assignments up front and getting the extra practice.
3. Go to office hours.
This might be the most important tip: Attending office hours for any class, especially math, is extremely important and helpful for getting an A in the class. This is a great opportunity to ask questions about homework or classwork assignments you didn’t understand and get one-on-one help. You can also hear questions your classmates have, which gives you an opportunity to think about questions or topics that you might have overlooked.
If you are currently failing or having great difficulty in math, this is your first step for raising your grade. It also shows your teacher that you are dedicated to learning.
4. Utilize your resources.
During these crazy times almost everything we do is online. Rather than straying away from these resources, make use of them! Look up videos on YouTube if you need more help with a topic, look up explanations of problems on Chegg, use Desmos or Geogebra to practice graphing different equations.
There are endless resources at your disposal, so make sure that you utilize them in all the ways you can.
5. Practice, practice, practice.
And… practice! The best way to get better at any skill, but especially with math, is to practice. If you don’t feel confident on a topic, look up problems on that topic. Complete all of the problems in your textbook. This may sound tedious, but it is the best way to be successful in math.
Math is about understanding patterns and different methods of solving. To get familiar with these patterns, the best thing you can do is just get as much practice with them as possible.
While there are definitely more things you can do to reach mastery in math class, years of practice as students and tutors have shown us that a combination of these five strategies will not only get you an A, but make you feel confident about the material, building a strong foundation for standardized tests like the SAT and ACT, and college-level study.
Meet the Author: Katie D.
Katie graduated with high distinction from University of Michigan, with a major in Math Education and a minor in Psychology Education. During college, she tutored and taught for multiple schools and academic programs, including the Academic Center for Student Athletes at University of Michigan and Breakthrough Collaborative in Brooklyn. She now teaches math full-time at Ascend Charter High School in Brooklyn. Read more about Katie.
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