If you ask most people what they fear the most, they won’t say “death” — they’ll tell you “public speaking.” After that? Taking a math exam.
People have a bad relationship with math. It often mystifies them to the point of ignorance. What’s worse is that they take pride in their arithmetic inabilities; they consider it a charming quirk and a talking-point. But this shouldn’t be the case.
Mathematics surrounds us in daily life. It’s the driving motion in physics, technology, and finance. It’s something completely unavoidable and attempting to do so is futile.
For those of you that have a deathly fear of mathematics, this is a guide on how to improve math skills:
Throw Away Your Calculator
This is figurative, of course. You shouldn’t throw out your expensive calculators. Especially those fancy graphing and finance calculators that most students have to take a small loan out to afford.
One thing that’s imperative in math is arithmetic. This is the foundation of everything that you do in mathematics. Learning from the ground-up is important if you’d like to excel in future studies.
You probably know your multiplication tables and how to add small digit numbers. It’s taught in most primary school settings. But what students neglect to learn is going beyond that.
When things started to get difficult, kids were handed a calculator to sum together numbers that were deemed too long or too difficult. Unfortunately, this handicapped a lot of fundamental learning.
Practice difficult arithmetic. First, do it on paper. When you get comfortable with what you’re doing by hand, do it in your head. You’ll be able to remember patterns you used to solve it with scratch paper, except you won’t need to write it down.
You won’t need to multiply or divide astronomical numbers together. But being able to go through the algorithms of it in your head is the essence of a great mathematician.
Now, there are limits to what a normal person can do. Ratios are especially tricky to do in your head. It’s recommended to use this Equivalent Ratio Calculator by iCalculator for calculating decimals.
Raise your hand if you failed high school algebra. If you’re in a room full of people, a good portion of them will have their hands up. High school is right around when “being bad at math” was learned as an acceptable sentiment.
Students will see a mixture of letters and numbers in a problem and feel an overwhelming sensation. To get better at math, you have to combat that nauseating churning in your stomach. If you think about the problem logically, you’ll likely come to its conclusion.
Algebra is the first stepping-stone to actual math. It’s no longer simple arithmetic. It requires a logical thought process and some puzzle-solving. But it’s not difficult.
The biggest problem students have with algebra is failing to understand that variables aren’t scary. They’re just place-holders for a number that makes the expression correct. Once you know this, you’re golden.
So, the next time you see an x in your math problem, don’t fret. It has a number attached to it. You just have to figure out what number makes the most sense to make the evaluation correct.
That is, in essence, what algebra is all about. Exhuming the unknown variables and replacing them with numbers. Think of the x as a “this many somethings to make something correct.”
For example, how many red vehicles would a dealership need to purchase, if they already have 6, to have a total of 10? Of course, it’s 4.
How to Improve Math Skills: Practice Makes Perfect
If you want to get good at something, you have to do it. Then, you have to do it some more. Practicing a skill is more valuable than any other way to excel in it.
Practice makes perfect, after all. This extends into other fields, as well. Practicing math seems tough, but it’s not. First, you should make a list of what you need to do. How good are you at with simple adding and subtracting? If you’re okay with arithmetic, then practice algebra.
You’ll soon realize that algebra is a neverending, branching tree. It has a nearly endless amount of different topics that relate to its core. With algebra, you should start with simple substitution problems.
When you’ve finished those, move on to more advanced problems. Eventually, start doing polynomial expressions (scarier than it sounds, it just means the variables have coefficients and exponents).
Practicing should be repetitive. Do as many problems as you can to fully grasp what you have to do to solve each question.
A good way to find some example problems is through an easy Google search. If you want to learn about graphing algebraic graphs, you’d search for “example algebra graphic problems.”
Never stop practicing. If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.
Find Something That You Enjoy
One of the driving factors in math is that there are so many different aspects of it. Every branch of math is almost infinite in its breadth. Finding what you enjoy can be a great motivation in learning maths.
Some people are statisticians at heart. They love finding probabilities in things happening.
Others love the mystification of calculus and its potential in physics. Calculus was created as a language to translate physical phenomena by Newton himself.
Then, there’s discrete mathematics. The forgotten brother of every other mask. It’s the highly logical math that’s used in puzzles and IQ tests. Pick something that you’d love to learn about and pursue it. The online math courses from Straighterline offer flexibility to work and learn at your own pace in a wide variety of math.
It All Adds Up
People fear math. It’s a topic that stumps, torments, and mystifies students across America. Learning how to improve math skills is the first step in demystifying the mysterious subject.
First and foremost, you have to stop using a calculator — at first, at least. Then, you need to revisit algebra and practice it until you know it fully. After that, find a subject that you’ll enjoy the most.