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April 8, 2022

10 Math Study Habits & Tricks Anyone Can Learn


April 8, 2022
 / 
Ashley Bellomy
 / 

Let’s be honest: studying is hard.

No matter what class you’re in or what skill you have with any particular subject, sitting down and putting your mind to work can be as exhausting as any midterm or final. Studying math is no exception.

And while it’s true that math can be harder for some students than others, this doesn’t mean it’s outright impossible to learn math even if you have more of an English or Social Studies-focused mind. At Twine, we believe every student can excel at any subject—all it takes are some simple habits you can learn right here.

Whether it’s memorizing the multiplications table or understanding that “SOH CAH TOA” is more than just a fun thing to say, here are 10 of the most helpful math study tips and tricks students of all ages can learn.

Tip #1: Practice Makes Perfect

#1 on our list is the simplest and most well-known tip of all: practice, practice, practice.

The best way to get better at something is to keep doing it. However, practicing isn’t doing something to get it right once; practicing is the art of doing something over and over again until you can’t get it wrong.

It is absolutely okay to do a full page of math exercises to realize you’ve been using the wrong formula from the beginning; what’s important is to recognize your mistake and try again. Math can be challenging, especially when exploring more abstract concepts like trigonometry and calculus, but it gets a little less difficult with every problem you try to solve.

Now, practicing is one thing. It’s another to keep practicing. The best way to get better at something is to keep doing it. You don’t have to do a lot, but try to put some time in your schedule every day to sharpen your math skills, even during the summer months. Great practice can look like:

  • Attempting some problems outside of your usual homework.
  • Going over your class notes one more time every night.
  • Flashcards and mini-tests.

If you practice consistently, you’ll become a math wiz in just a few short weeks!

Tip #2: Bring Abstract Concepts Down to Earth

Addition, subtraction, multiplication—these are basic math concepts everybody knows. We use these skills almost every day to do our finances, perform our jobs, plan routes, and more.

Things can get a little tricky, though, when we introduce concepts like calculus, geometry, and algebra into the mix. But while these subjects may be a little more challenging to grasp than others, you can still apply some good old-fashioned real-world logic to help you understand them better.

For example, trigonometry is the study of angles to help us determine distances. On a test, you might only have a triangle on your sheet to help you visualize the concept and solve the problem, but your mind is much stronger than what you can see.

Try using real-world objects like trees, skyscrapers, and bridges to help you make these concepts a little more concrete. Even if you’re presented with a word problem, you can always replace certain cosmetic features to better understand the question and how you can solve it.

Tip #3: Break Your Learning into Smaller Chunks

If grounding your math problem is tricky, try breaking down your lesson into smaller pieces. It’s always easier to learn something small before moving on to something big.

When it comes to math concepts, lay the foundation of your learning before adding on more complex problems. A process you can follow could look like this:

  • Understand what type of problem you’re solving.
  • Find the formulas applicable for this type of problem.
  • Try solving the problem using your formulas.
  • Check your answer.

If you still struggle with solving the question after multiple attempts, try different strategies or ask your teacher for help.

Tip #4: Don’t Forget Your Formula Sheet!

Math is a very rule-based subject, and different problems require different formulas to solve correctly, so it’s essential to have a formula sheet ready. 

Some teachers may provide their own, or some might have you create one before a test, but it’s crucial to have one and know it inside and out.

But the great thing about math is that there are many different formulas you can use to solve the same question. Get comfortable with some of your favorites, and don’t be afraid to experiment with several formulas to see if you can come to the same answer.

Tip #5: Understand the Power of Your Calculator

Especially as you get into more advanced math concepts, your calculator will become a vital tool in your problem-solving toolkit. But having a calculator and understanding how to use it are 2 very different things.

Scientific calculators, like the ones most high school and university students use, have unique capabilities for solving algebra, graphing, and trigonometry problems. Still, these devices are only as powerful as your understanding of them.

The best way to get comfortable with your calculator is to play with it. If you’re stuck on a particular question and your calculator seems to be giving you different answers all the time, try asking your teacher for some guidance.

This leads us to our next tip…

Tip #6: Your Teachers Are Here to Help

Your teacher is, by far, your most valuable resource for learning complex math concepts.

Don’t be afraid of asking questions when you’re confused and making mistakes. Asking for help can give you the step-by-step process you need to tackle any problem you have confidently. If you’re not sure what you’re doing wrong, walk your teacher through your process, and they’ll help spot the gaps in your learning and provide support when you need it.

If your teacher is unavailable for any reason, try going online to see if you can find an answer there. The Internet is full of valuable resources for students and teachers, so be sure to utilize it as much as you can to clear up any questions you may have.

Tip #7: Gamify Your Learning

Who says learning has to be boring?

Gamification is a learning concept many teachers are adopting to help keep their students engaged while teaching high-level concepts that would otherwise bore or even confuse some students.

The idea of gamification is to make a game out of whatever you’re learning and play it as part of your study habits. There are endless ways to gamify a subject, but some of the most common gamification strategies for math include:

Gamifying a subject immediately shifts you into a more active way of learning. Research suggests that gamification can help students understand their lessons and improve their performance, given the right environment and context.

Tip #8: Study in Productive Environments

If you’re struggling with a topic, or if you find yourself scrolling on your phone after a few minutes of studying, try putting yourself in an environment that will keep your focus on learning.

If you’re someone who likes peace and quiet to get work done, classic study spaces like libraries and computer labs are a great way to keep you “in the zone.” But if you have trouble focusing your mind on a single task for a long time, try looking for groups and clubs where everyone is working together on the same project.

Study groups are a fantastic way to break the monotony of traditional study habits while also giving you space to ask questions you might otherwise not ask in class. Many study groups and math clubs also gamify parts of their meetings so everyone has a chance to solidify their knowledge or find gaps in their learning.

Tip #9: Come Back to Hard Questions Later

You’re going to get stumped a few times, and that’s okay. What’s important is to keep trying.

If you get stuck on a particularly tough question, skip it and come back a little later. It’s entirely possible to have a “eureka” moment when answering another question, so always solve the problems you can before circling back to tougher questions. Staying on one question can stress you out, drain time out of your study session, and affect your confidence.

Solving other questions first can snowball your understanding of a concept, and before you know it, you may be able to complete your entire textbook in no time.

Tip #10: Remember, It’s Just Numbers!

Learning something new can be tough, but your brain is capable of amazing things if you give it time to relax and absorb the lessons you’re learning.

Take a break if you feel your eyelids getting heavy and your head getting cloudy. Spend a moment to clear your mind and gather your thoughts so you can come back to these subjects feeling more refreshed.

The key to learning anything new is being active and engaged, so always try to approach your study sessions with a sense of enthusiasm and purpose. The more you engage with what you need to learn, the easier it will be to understand.

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