The Best Ways To Study Maths

February 25, 2021Klein E

During my school years I have always heard people complaining about the difficulties of studying mathematical subjects. Indeed, mathematic subjects can be challenging, because in order to acquire a good score, you have to not only understand the concepts and techniques, but also do a lot of practice to improve your calculation accuracy, which can be very time consuming. Therefore, it is important to be very organized when you study maths, which is basically why I am writing this article.

In this article I will provide some basic advice on study skills for mathematic subjects specifically, which have helped me to perform well in year 12.


Have Three Notebooks:

For each of my math subjects, I had three separate notebooks for class notes, homework/exercise and summary respectively. It is important to have a summary book as early as possible, because in the exam you will be using these books. If you start to make your summary book early and use them in your SAC, you will be familiar with the locations of your formulas, which will give you a large advantage in the exam. Please be aware that there are certain rules which restrict the types of notebooks that can be taken into the examination room - when unsure, always check with your teachers at school or the VCAA website.

What to write in your summary book:

The summary book should cover the concepts (definitions), and formulas in each area of study. Also, it will be good to include questions that you have got wrong during practice. I always write down why I got this question wrong on the side too, just to remind myself not to make the same mistakes again. As a careless person, on the front page, I have put certain common things that I have regularly done wrong when doing my homework, such as unit conversions, precision of result (how many decimals required) and calculator mode for angle measurements, so that before my SAC, I know I need to be careful with them. For Math Methods and Specialist Math Students: On the last several pages, I have summarized the graphs with their basic function equations that we have learnt - This can be very helpful for graph, derivatives and anti-derivatives questions in the exams.

Update your summary book before the SAC as a revision, and ask your teacher/tutor about the parts you are uncertain with.

For Methods and Specialist Students

Practice your calculation skills:

Even though you are allowed a calculator for many sections in your exam, you should still try to solve questions by hand when you are doing your homework. This will really reinforce your understanding and familiarise yourself with the techniques. In the tech-free part, there are always questions simply testing your calculation skills - it’s always good to secure these marks. Therefore, please make sure you know multiplication table, differentiation/anti-differentiation and equation solving techniques, and the relation between fraction and division, etc.

Additional Advice

Do your homework regularly:

Yes you actually should do your homework. Personally, I stay in the school library after school to complete the relevant exercise of the day, because if I go home I get lazy. As normally you would have time in class to do some of it, it really should not take long - if you understand the context and are updated, it should take only about 15-30 minutes. 

Know how to use the calculator:

Please know your calculator well. There are many clever functions in the calculator that can save you enormous time in exam (for further math students especially, please know how to use the ‘geometry’ function for your trigonometry section). If your teacher don’t give your enough information on this (as I know from some of my students), you should really find someone who can explain this to you or check your textbook for more instruction.

Have a positive attitude:

It may sound clichéd, but I do think it’s important to have confidence when you are studying mathematics. Yes, mathematics is difficult, but high school mathematic subjects are not real mathematics - they are subjects, so if you do enough work, you will do well in them. As I mentioned earlier, mathematic subjects appear to be harder than other subjects, because they require a larger amount of work. Yet, once you have done enough practice, you will begin to see the similar pattern in them and the strategies to all the puzzling questions will suddenly become obvious to you. So, never think you are incapable of understanding high school mathematics - it might be the fact that your teacher’s explanation doesn’t match your learning preference, or the fact that you haven’t attempted more practice questions. Keep trying - asking people who understand it, reading your textbooks, getting a tutor or doing more practice - you will get there. Everyone is capable of understanding high school mathematics - in a way, it’s like learning addition and multiplication in primary school - you may get it wrong due to a lack of practice, but it will be ridiculous to say that you do not understand it.

This advice looks simple but is actually hard to implement and maintain. If you have successfully integrated all of them into your study, you should be able to perform very well in your exam. 

I wish you all the best and you'll do amazingly well if you follow my advice above!

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Klein E

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