There are people who believe that ‘math is fun.’ On the other hand, there are people who really struggle with math, people to whom math is certainly no fun. More often than not, the former category of people tends to do well in their math exams, as the latter category flunks.
Now there are people who argue that the difference between these two groups of people is in terms of their natural mental abilities. There is, indeed, no denying that natural mental abilities may indeed have some bearing on how much fun one finds math to be (and subsequently, how well or poorly he or she does in it). But more often than not, the major difference between those who find math to be fun, and who typically succeed in it and those who struggle with it tends to be in how the respective groups of people go about studying it. Simply put, there are some things you can do to make the study of math to be more fun, and to increase your chances of doing well in it. We will be looking at those things you can do, to make the study of math to be more fun, and to increase your chances of doing well in it. They include:
- Continually examining your attitude towards math: simply put, the main reason as to why many people struggle with math (and all subjects which involve math, such as physics, chemistry, economics, accounting and so on) is in the fact that they believe ‘math is hard.’ The truth of the matter is that math is not hard. As long as you entertain the belief that ‘math is hard,’ you will always struggle with it. We are not downplaying the difficulties you may be having with the subject. It is true that you may be finding math to be hard. But there is a difference between finding math to be hard, and math actually being hard. The first key to having fun studying math, and succeeding in the subject, is simply to start believing that math is easy. Just affirm this to yourself daily, and you will soon start finding the subject the subject easy (or at least fun). It sounds too simple to be true, but in actual fact, the difference between the students who struggle with math and the students who succeed in it is typically in the fact that the latter believe that math is easy, whereas the former believe that math is hard!
- Looking for real life applications: sometimes, the reason as to why people struggle with math is in the fact that they find it too abstract. But the truth of the matter is that every problem presented in math is based on a real life situation. Try to visualize the real world scenarios behind various math problems, and you will most probably find it easier to solve them. At the end of the day, remember that the reason as to why you have to be put through math courses is to improve your real-life problem solving skills. Therefore courses like algebra, calculus and trigonometry, for which you find no immediate real life application still help in improving your general problem solving skills. Viewing them this way will help you see more meaning in them, have more fun doing them - and probably do them better.
- Retracing your steps: you come to realize that in math, principles build upon each other. If you don’t understand a basic principle, chances are that you will struggle with all the other advanced math principles built upon it. If you are truly struggling with math, and it doesn’t seem to be due to attitude problems, the problem is probably in the fact that there are some basic principles you missed out on. Then success for you becomes a matter of retracing your step backwards, to establish where you lost way, and reestablishing yourself. Sometimes, it may emerge that you lost your way in grade school: in which case the solution would be to buy the relevant grade school math books, and get a grasp on the fundamentals all the way up to the point you find yourself at the moment.
- Focusing on understanding the fundamental principles first: the mistake many of us do is that of trying to jump into solving math problems before first understanding the underlying principles. Things will be much easier for you if you first make an effort to understand the underlying principles.
- Doing lots of practice ‘problems:’ once you feel that you have understood any basic math principle, the adage ‘practice makes perfect’ instantly comes into play. You need to do many math problems based on all principles you learn, to the extent that whatever form an exam question takes, you can handle it confidently. If you are studying math for a given exam, it helps if you can have a view of past exam papers, to see the form questions take, and ensure that you are capable of dealing with problems in that form (because chances are that your own version of the exam won’t be very different). To be sure, the specific problems in your version of the exam may be different, but the issues being tested will, in all probability, remain the same as on the past test papers.