How to study maths
Studying maths requires a lot of time and effort for you to achieve good results. Whether you find maths relatively easy or incredibly difficult, here are some tips that will help make studying for maths easier for everyone.
Maths requires active learning
Be actively involved! Watching your teacher solve problems on the board does not mean you understand or actively follow their calculations or explanations. You need to pay attention in class so you can understand how to solve problems.
Ask questions as soon as you don’t understand something. If you don’t want to disrupt the lesson, make sure you ask your teacher after the lesson. If you wait too long to ask for help or don’t ask at all, you will never be able to resolve any issues you have (which would be detrimental in an exam).
It is important you complete all your homework (from both school and EIM) to practise applying your techniques. We know doing homework may seem like a chore, and it is difficult to find the motivation to do it, but if you don’t constantly practice with either textbook questions or practice papers, then you will find yourself struggling by the time the exam comes around.
Maths is more than memorising
Don’t think that maths is just memorising formulas. You need to know when and how to apply formulas and you need to know how to manipulate or adapt these to different problems. These skills develop from constantly doing practice questions and past papers. Doing these will help you easily identify methods of solving different questions, and prepare you for anything the exam may throw at you.
Maths is cumulative
Most of the time the questions you encounter in an exam integrate multiple areas of maths into a single problem. For example, a question may be based on circle geometry, but it also asks for you to apply cosine rule to find a certain length. This means that you will need a solid understanding of the whole course and know how to apply a mixture of the techniques you have learnt. You should be doing the basic questions first, so that you can completely grasp the concept before doing more complex questions.
It is important that you have mastered all the key concepts before an exam – find all of your weak areas and aim to improve in those areas.
When you have identified these weak areas, you can go onto HSC101 and go through the topics you are unsure about. Watch all the videos and practise applying the theory on our online homework system (that automatically generates new questions each time you submit a practice set). If you’re still lost, just enter any questions under the corresponding video and our team will be happy to help you out within 24 hours. You can also come in and ask for some more practice questions to reinforce what you have learnt and develop your skills.
Learn from your errors
The most effective way to study for maths is doing as many questions you can. You should be attempting to do every question without referring to any notes or formulas. When you are stuck on a question, don’t just immediately refer to the solutions. Attempt the question using a variety of techniques first, and if you still have no idea, have a look at the solutions. Then go back to the question and try to apply the solution. Find questions that are similar and attempt those questions with what you have learnt – in doing so you’ll be prepared for those types questions if they come up in an exam.
After completing practice questions and past papers, always go back and mark your work. Take note of all the mistakes you have made, whether they are silly mistakes or if you just didn’t know how to do the question. Remember what you have done wrong so that next time you won’t make the same mistakes. Simple things such as having your calculator in ‘degrees’ mode when doing a question that requires you to be using ‘radians’ can cost you a mark. Look through your working out, try to identify where you went wrong, and then re-attempt the question. If you don’t understand how to do a question or you need clarification on the solutions, ask a friend or ask us for help. Keep practising with more questions so that you avoid making the same mistakes. If you find that you are always making the same mistakes, go back to the theory or watch some HSC101 videos.
When taking an exam for maths, there are several things to keep in mind.
Being time efficient is very important during the exam. Spend less time on the easier questions at the beginning (but don’t rush through them, otherwise you will make silly mistakes and lose marks that you deserve). If you find yourself stuck on a question, leave it and move on, otherwise you’ll waste all your time trying to figure out the solution and run out of time for the rest of the paper.
When writing your solutions, especially for lengthier problems, make sure you include every step of your working. Don’t try to save time by doing some steps in your head – if your solution is incorrect you will waste a lot of time by having to go over your working out and figure out what went wrong. It will also make it much easier for the marker to go through your steps of working and understand what you’re doing. If your answer is wrong, but you have provided a comprehensive solution that was on the right track, the marker may give you some marks for your working out.
Never leave any questions blank. Even if you are unsure of how to do the question, write down as much as you can. The marker may award you some marks if you were able to partially answer the question.
If possible, go back and check your work. Look through and check your answers for the easier questions – you don’t want to lose marks from silly mistakes! When checking more complex questions, don’t just skim over your solution. When you just read over your solution, you are often unable to identify any errors you have done. Try to quickly redo each problem and see if you get the same answer. If not, compare your two solutions and see what contradicts, and then figure out which one is correct.
Maths is a subject that really needs you to put in a lot of time and effort to achieve good marks – you can’t just do a few past papers before the day of the exam and hope for the best. Take these tips and apply them to your maths study routine – feel free to ask us for help!