In Academics on
April 17, 2019

5 Keys to Studying Effectively for Your Math Class

“I’m gonna fail this Algebra test.”

Does this sound like you? Is your Algebra class kicking your butt?

Registering for an Algebra class soon and afraid of not passing?

You’re not the only one who feels this way. There are plenty of students who think they’re in a whirlwind of numbers and letters as they try to come out of their math class alive.

But have you ever wondered how some of your classmates who seemed to struggle in math ended up passing with As and high Bs?

“How’d they do that?!” you probably asked to yourself, “… we were just talking about how we knew we would both fail this class…” 🤔

Something was going on behind the scenes that may have been a bit more intense than you thought.

A study routine, maybe?

Now I’m sure you can agree that it can be frustrating when everything makes sense in class, but studying at home results in a downward spiral into the abyss of confusion.

But home is where the math-gic happens!

How can you make your math study sessions effective, progressive and, dare I say, enjoyable? Apply the five keys I’ve outlined for you below and download your KOG Math Notes-to-Study Binder Sheets to get you math-confident, organized, and studying better.

5 Keys to Studying Effectively for Your Math Class | Are you ready to take your math skills to the next level? In this guest post from Latreil of Knowledge Over Grades, you are going to learn how to become a better math student (and student in general.) Click through for this lengthy 3,000-word guide that teaches you how to boost your math confidence, advocate for yourself, and more. #CollegeAdvice #MathAdvice #StudentTips

1. Boost Your Math Confidence

Before anything else, you must know that you can succeed in math. We all can. It may take a little more effort from some of us, but we all have the brain capacity to understand math concepts. Yes, even the ones you feel are complex.

Here Is A Quick Overview Of How The Brain Learns Math

As your class progresses, you are learning something new every day. Some things you’ve seen before and may even understand pretty well. Some things you’re seeing for the first time but can easily grasp the meaning. Still, there are other things you have never seen before causing you confusion and sometimes panic. Those concepts make you think you’ll never get to the point of understanding.

This point is crucial in the learning process. Here is where your brain is firing off the most electricity as it works to adapt to this new information.

Dr. Jean Piaget, a Swiss psychologist, described this as a state of disequilibrium. He observed that we all go through stages of equilibrium-disequilibrium-equilibrium as we grow and learn. If you think about it, this happens a lot in life! You start off cool with what you know, then BAM here comes a new idea. Your brain begins to “hurt” as you learn and adapt to this new knowledge. Then, over time, the information starts to become easier to think about the harder you work to understand it through reasoning and practice.

For Instance, What’s One Thing Most Of Us Do Every Day?

Walk. You probably can’t even remember not walking. However, there was a time in your life when you did not know how to walk. One day, though, as you watched other people around you walk, you decided to get up on your two little feet and take a few steps.

Did you fall? Of course, you did. No baby walks perfectly on their first try. Babies fail at walking hundreds of times. But have you seen a baby decide they were going to stop trying to walk because of those failures? Nope! They have the mindset that they can do it and nothing can stop them from succeeding at walking.

What’s The Lesson?

Adopt the attitude that babies have about learning how to walk and apply it to our ability to learn how to do math.

Granted, we’re not babies anymore, so we do have some negative mental unraveling to do before we are just gleefully positive about math. We need to work on rebuilding our math confidence, and one way to do it is to use affirmations.

Affirmations are statements we can use to affirm, or declare as fact, an idea of what we want to believe about ourselves. Regarding the context of this article, we want to believe positive things about “our math selves.” I like to call these types of affirmations, math-firmations.

Math-firmations can be used to change your mindset or mental state of how you feel about your ability to succeed in math from negative to positive.

Here’s The Question:

What type of math person do you see yourself as?

Most people would say “I’m horrible in math. I was always so bad at it.” Is this something you would say as well?

What if you could change that statement around to reflect a positive, growth mindset about math? Try this instead.

Math-Firmation

“Math is challenging for me, but time and effort will help me train my brain to understand more and more.”

Here are a few others you can write down to keep in your math notebook:

  • “I’m learning to think more logically with every math lesson.”
  • “I made a mistake there, but I’m still on the right track.”
  • “I don’t think I understood this properly. I’m going to ask for help.”

You may not have known this, but recent research is showing that lots of electrical activity is present in the brain when we are struggling on a math problem. However, the electrical activity stops when we give up and decide to not continue trying to solve the problem. This represents an example of a person with a fixed mindset. On the other hand, if you decide that you will keep trying until you get the answer or understand the math concept, your brain will work with you by firing off electricity and connecting synapses. This is an example of a growth mindset.

It may not feel good, but your brain needs to struggle and be challenged for it to help you learn. Work with your brain functions by having a growth mindset so that your mind can provide the proper effort to help you understand.

Are you struggling with your math confidence? Learn how to create math-firmations with @knowledge_grade on The Happy Arkansan. Click To Tweet

2. Advocate For Yourself

If you’re struggling through your math class, no one knows how things are going for you better than yourself. Neither your instructors, your parents, or your classmates know how bad you need help. That’s why you need to take action early in the class and advocate for your math education.

How can you do that?

Do things to make other people know who you are and what you need help with.

Email

Before the semester begins, you can email your math instructor letting them know that you’ve struggled with this math subject in the past and you’re nervous about taking this course. Let your instructor know that you would like any advice they have for you and any material they think you should review before the course begins. Ask for any support or practice programs, online or offline, they would suggest you invest in for extra assistance.

During Class

If you have a question during class, raise your hand and ask it. If your class is too big to ask questions, don’t hesitate to grab a Teacher’s Assistant (TA) or write your question down and ask your professor later, either in-person or through email.

Pay attention to the level of math understanding of your classmates. There may be some students who are struggling just like you, but there may be some who seem to be getting it. Get to know these students and ask them a few questions outside of class. Try to sit near them during class so that if you have a quick break, you can ask them to explain a concept taught that day.

Study Groups

Study groups are useful, especially when there’s a mixed level of math understanding. Maybe one person gets one type of math problem, and you get another. You can all share what you know and gain knowledge of what you didn’t know.

However, Youtuber Frank Thomas, college study expert, advises to try the math problems on your own so that you can figure out what you don’t understand about them, and then come together as a study group to ask questions and learn. This way, once you learn, you’re not just following someone else’s steps, but you’re filling in the blanks in your understanding of that math concept. This will equip you to do any level of math problem in that category, not just the level you had a question about.

If you’re struggling through your math class, no one knows how things are going for you better than yourself. No one knows how bad you need help. That’s why you need to take action early in the class and advocate for your math education. Click To Tweet

3. Take Good Notes

While in class it’s essential to take some form of notes. Everyone is different which gives a reason for different types of note-taking. Some people want to write down every word and example from class. And there are others who like to focus on what’s on the board and only write down important points and questions.

Whatever type of note-taker you are, make sure you’re doing it in a way that will allow you to show that you went to class that day.

Here a few different styles of note-taking you may like.

Cornell Notes

This is a very organized type of note-taking that includes a title, space for key concepts learned and a space for your commentary on those concepts. You’re even prompted to summarize the lesson at the bottom.

Flow/Free-Write Notes

These types of notes match their name exactly: Freely Flowing. As you learn, you write. You may also add additional notes on the corners or margins for further explanation. Flow notes are more than likely the style of notes you take now, especially since it’s how most of our instructors write on the board.

Visual Notes

Those with a little time on their hands like to break out the colored pencils and pens to draw, color-code and decorate their notes. This isn’t a bad idea since it allows certain concepts to stand out separately from the rest of the notes.

Slideshow Notes

Some instructors give out printables of the slideshow presentation they’re using to present their lesson on. You may think having slides is an advantage because it includes everything your instructor will cover in that day’s lesson. But does it? The printed slide deck is more than likely an outline for the lesson, on which the instructor will elaborate and fill in. For example, there may be a math problem on the screen with blank space underneath, and the instructor may work it out on the board, on the screen, or they may have you do it. Don’t look at this as an opportunity to be lazy and not take notes at all. You may still have questions of your own, side notes and regular notes to add in. The slide deck is just a foundation to build on.

KOG Math Notes-to-Study Binder Sheets

These printable binder sheets incorporate elements of some of the aforementioned note-taking styles. They allow you space to free-write while keeping track of titles, steps, formulas, and questions along the side. You have an option to write a summary at the end of the page or on a summary collection sheet. There’s even space to record vocabulary words, classmate info and study group arrangements.

Sounds like a perfectly loaded combination for meaningful study sessions right? Well, you know what? You can download your copies right here!

More On Notes

Whichever method you choose to use for note-taking, it’s always good practice to reread and possibly rewrite and expound on them later. By “expound on,” I mean to add commentary, symbols, arrows, etc. Fill in missing steps your instructor may have skipped, label titles, book page numbers, section numbers, types/levels of problems worked, and the names of the different methods used.

You can transfer formulas and vocabulary words to flash cards or a separate notebook designated for this type of info. This may even be a good time to get your colored pencils and start color-coding, which can help with memory. I remember doing all of this in my computer science class and went from a failing test to a B on my next one.

Be sure to point out anything in your notes you don’t understand or don’t remember what its connection was to the lesson. This is what you can bring out to your classmates during study group or in class to your instructor for clarity.

Taking stellar notes is a crucial part of success in math class. Learn about the best types of notes to take with @knowledge_grade on The Happy Arkansan. Click To Tweet

4. Utilize the Textbook, Handouts, Slides, Syllabus, Et Cetera

Most math classes have textbooks, but I’m learning that a lot of classes don’t. It seems odd, but it’s true. When I taught Algebra 2 there were no textbooks; I had to find all my practice problems online and make all my lessons from scratch.

If you have a textbook, try to read everything. Why? From the beginning to the end of each lesson, you’re going from the point of not understanding to understanding a little more. When you go home after class to study, that’s where the learning juices can start flowing, if you allow it. You can also begin the math juice flow before class by reviewing the section you’ll be learning that day ahead of time to get familiar with the material.

As you are reviewing your notes, it will be helpful to use your syllabus to help you locate in your textbook where that topic is being discussed. There you will find explanations, example problems, and vocab definitions (as well as proper sentence use and pronunciation of those words.) You’ll also find different applications of the math concepts in the real world. Your textbook may even have side notes giving you a heads up or a useful reminder for a specific problem.

Other Helpful Tips

It’s a great idea to work through the book’s examples on your own in your notebook or the “Flow” section of your KOG Math Notes-to-Study Binder Sheets. Use the guidance of the textbook to lead you to the right answer, but try to figure out your style of completing the problem.

There’s almost always more than one way to answer a math question. The way you naturally answer the question may be the best way for you. On the other hand, you should still be open to at least understanding another method of solving a math problem because you may learn that it is quicker and more efficient than your way.

Another thing your syllabus is useful for is helping you plan and pace your study sessions based on due dates, exams, and projects. Don’t wait until the last minute to study for a test. However, if the concept was already tested on, try to spend more time studying for what will be on the next test. *Note: Unless what was on the last test is a prerequisite for the new test.*

Are you using your syllabus, textbooks, and other resources to the best of your ability in math class? Latreil of @knowledge_grade shows us how to use what we have. Click To Tweet

5. Vocab Is Everything!

Math is a universal language. There’s no getting around learning new words and phrases with each new math lesson. Maybe it’ll help if you look at math class as you do a world language class, like Spanish or French. In those classes, you intentionally learn new words and phrase every day. You write new words in sentences, and you practice pronouncing them.

The same goes for math. It’s imperative that you get used to speaking the language of math since this will help you understand what you hear in class and read in your textbook.

Here are some tips to get you comfortable with math language:

Write Down The Definition Of All The Vocabulary Words You Learn In Each Lesson

You can record these on the vocabulary page of your KOG Math Notes-to-Study Binder Sheets.

Taking the time to write your new vocabulary words out will further instill in your brain the meaning of the word. Draw a picture, if applicable, to give another deeper meaning to the math term.

Practice Saying The Vocab Words Out Loud And In Context

Saying words out loud will help you become fluent and conversational in the language. Practicing your pronunciation with a study partner or in a study group is a good idea.

Learn The Root Or Etymology Of Your Math Terms

Learning the root or etymology of math terms will help you make connections to phrases and terms you’re already comfortable with.

For example, the word Algebra is originally Arabic, spelled al-jabr meaning the “reunion of broken parts.” The full phrase is al-jabr w’al-muqabalah meaning ‘the reunion of broken parts by way of balancing over an equal sign using opposition.’ Here the opposition means for us to use opposite operations. And I’m sure you’ve heard “what you do to one side of the equation, you do to the other,” right? Well, that’s the part the allows us to keep the equation balanced.

Learn The Proper Math Notation For What You Are Working On And How To Accurately Describe It

For example, f(x) is not pronounced “f times x.” The proper pronunciation is “f of x.” It means “the output of the function f for the input x,” for whatever x you choose to use or are given.

Math Vocabulary Includes Processes Too

Be sure to note down names of properties, formulas, and theorems and point out when it is appropriate to use them. You can record these on the formula page of your KOG Math Notes-to-Study Binder Sheets.

Here are some popular Algebra formulas to have on hand:

Vocabulary is essential, yes, even in math! Learn how Latreil of @knowledge_grade uses vocabulary to her advantage when tackling math problems. Click To Tweet

Let’s Recap!

As you can see, there are a lot of pieces to effective studying. That’s why, when class starts, it’s essential to get in the zone and go full steam until it’s over. No one can be more serious than you are about your math education, because at the end of the day it’s your grade and your future.

The five keys to effectively studying for your math class are:

  • Getting your math confidence up and your mind ready to learn with some empowering math-firmations (write the examples down in your notebook).
  • Advocating for yourself to get your math issues addressed and solved.
  • Taking good notes using whatever style you like, just as long as they show that you went to class that day. Try out the KOG Math Notes-to-Study Binder Sheets, packed with organization and variety.
  • Utilizing your textbook, handouts, slides, syllabus, etc. for additional example problems, deeper explanations, a gauge for pacing and other hidden gems.
  • Learning to speak, read and write the language of math. Your fluency will boost your awareness and progress in class.

Please comment below if you have tried any of these math study techniques or tell us which ones you plan on trying. Be sure to share this with your friends. It’s a good one!

Latreil Jackson
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Latreil Jackson

Latreil Jackson is a math coach behind Knowledge Over Grades, LLC. She is from Trenton. NJ and she tutor students of all ages, particularly in Pre-Algebra and Algebra.Latreil views it as imperative to build a strong foundation of basic math skills to achieve proficiency in higher level math topics.She calls herself a math coach because along with the learning concepts, students need a mentor to encourage them to keep climbing. Besides math coaching, Latreil loves to work on little projects like organizing spaces; saving money; reading books; and strengthening relationships with family, friends and business partners.
Latreil Jackson
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1 Comment

  • Briana

    I actually miss my math classes!

    Briana
    https://beyoutifulbrunette.com/

    April 17, 2019 at 3:48 pm Reply
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