25 Jul How Can I improve My Math In Secondary School?
Mathematics can be a rough subject for students in secondary school. In fact, no subject quite incurs anger or incites the same level of frustration as maths. On a consistent basis, secondary school students of all levels list maths as their least favourite subject and one that they dislike spending time on.
If you are struggling to keep up with your school syllabus, we want to assure you that you are not alone. In actual fact, many students who receive poor grades in maths are often plagued by the same few issues. Thankfully, this means that they have the same opportunities to improve and have a more favourable time with math.
In this article, we will be cover 4 main areas that you can look at to improve both your understanding of math and your grades in the subject.
Master Your Fundamental Topics First
Explaining Your Confusion
Ask yourself how often does this happen to you. You cruise through the first two months of your school’s semester, getting acceptable grades on topic tests. These tests would have been on introductory topics for your year, and would have not posed overly complex concepts. As such, you felt confident with your progress thus far.
However, suddenly a more advance topic is taught leaving you feeling lost. Worse still, you are confused by how some of your classmates who previously showed little difference in capability from you, are now performing much better on this topic. Why has a gap open up? Is it simply because they were lucky to somehow grasp the new advance topic faster? The answer is no, with the difference lying in their mastery of the fundamental introductory topics and skills.
The Relationship Between Introductory & Advance Topics
Mathematics is a subject that links its advance and introductory topics. Often times, these advance topics have a multi-step problem solving process, including sub-tasks that use techniques from introductory topics.
When you only have a passable amount of knowledge of the relevant introductory topic, you would have to spend extra effort learning the advance topic. Why is this so? While your peers are able to perform the aforementioned sub-tasks of the current topic with ease, you would be devoting more mental effort to working on these tasks. This would mean that you would have less energy to use on the newly introduced concepts or techniques.
We Recommend Mastering the Fundamentals
Should you be struggling with advance topics, we recommend that you first review your fundamental knowledge. When tackling these long multi-step questions, you should be able to utilise techniques from earlier topics without thought. This is also common occurrence in your school classes whereby your teacher may move on to the next part while you are still struggling to compute the steps in the previous part.
Therefore, do consider going back and evaluating any doubts or problems that you might have with easier chapters first.
Good Examples of Fundamental Concepts Include
- The power of mental math that allows you to make quick calculations and not tax your mind for every step.
- Algebra, which is used in most topics in secondary school math. If you are not fast with algebraic functions, then you will easily find yourself struggling to keep up in class.
- Basic geometry calculations are important as their formulas are used in many different applications. You must be familiar and be able to recall each at will.
Changing Your Learning Technique
It is important to recognise that everyone has their own learning style. As such, what works for your friend might well be ineffective or inefficient for you. Should you be struggling with maths despite putting in hours of hard work, it would be wise to experiment with a different approach and to find one that works better for you.
Learning Through Theory or Sub Question Practice
Two common techniques used in mathematics would be to learn either the theory as a whole or by breaking it down with practice questions on each subtopic.
Some learners do best when they spend time reading through a concept’s theory in its entirety, including its applications and solutions. Thereafter, they are to make sense of the big picture and proceed to work on the details through either note taking or practice questions. The downside of this approach would be that students might spend a significant amount of time on the theory only to struggle to translate this understanding into practice questions thereafter.
Another style that is common amongst students would be to break a topic up with practice questions relating to knowledge they have just picked up. The advantage of this approach is that it checks your understanding and ensures that you are confident with what you have just learnt. Furthermore, it helps you to break up a large task into smaller milestones. However, some students do struggle with piecing everything together at the end, failing to see how each section relates to each other.
Mind Mapping & What If Questioning
Mind mapping and what if questioning are effective techniques that drives you to consider all kinds of possibilities within a topic. It also pieces together the entire puzzle and allows you to look at all of the details. In particular, both mind mapping and what if questioning comes in handy as a summary test to a topic or for preparing you for application-based questions.
Question & Language Variation is Key
Mathematics is often described as a language, with word problems being a huge part of mathematics. Even for learners who are fairly confident with a concept, they can be caught off guard if questioned in a different manner or being presented with information in an unusual way.
To ensure that you are confident with all aspects of a topic, you should source for variations of its questions or applications. In this way, you would not be caught off guard when facing questions during exams.
Problem Solving Techniques
Up till now, we have covered strategies and approaches for improving your learning experience in maths. We will now move on to an equally important aspect of scoring well in mathematics – techniques used to help you solve problems in tests.
Break Down Long Worded Questions
Mathematics questions have trended towards real-life scenarios in recent years. As a result, the questions have gotten longer and more complicated. Information presented in these questions are abundant but not always useful to solving what has been asked of you.
This mimics real-life environments where one of the first actions to be taken would be for you to gather all information, before interpreting and filtering them. Many students fall into the trap of becoming overwhelmed by the massive amount of information being presented in these questions.
They might also try to grasp for any information that is presented to them without carefully considering the rest. This means that they would end up wasting valuable time working with non-essential data.
We recommend that you perform active note taking and information processing when tackling these questions. Try underlining, scribbling and rewriting the information according to the specific questions posed. This will help your brain to find the critical information in the question and to make sense of it. Overall, you should expect a much more efficient and streamlined approach to questions when you implement these techniques.
Develop a Routine
Routine and rhythm are highly underestimated factors in mathematics. When you are able to derive an approach to analysing questions, your brain is able to quickly enter a comfort zone and zoom in on solving the question at hand. This is in sharp contrast to another person who approaches each question differently and does not get into a rhythm.
Common examples of routines taken include:
- Writing down the relevant base formulas at the start
- Listing the steps that the standard concept entails
- Writing out linkages between the different factors in the question
- Filling in components of a formula whenever possible so as to help you see if you are missing any information
Attend Tuition Classes
Maths tuition lessons have been a time-tested aid in mastering the challenges of the subject. While school teachers do a fantastic job of introducing a topic and bringing you through its concepts, they lack the time to attend to every student’s individual gaps. This is where tuition shines as there is increased time and attention for you individually to clarify any doubts.
More importantly, you would have the opportunity to ask all of the “whys” and find out how the concept can be applied in real life. In this way, you would be gaining mastery over the topic and be much more prepared for any question that an exam might throw at you.
In particular, secondary school students often encounter a wall when they are in the midst of secondary 3. At this point, a significant leap would have taken place from lower secondary school maths syllabus. As such, getting sec 3 A math tuition or sec 3 E math tuition is a great way to help you keep up with your peers.
Furthermore, in addition to extra time for practice or questioning, tuition centres often have alternate questions that will broaden your understanding of the concept.
Secondary school mathematics can pose a huge challenge to students, be it at lower or upper secondary levels. To help yourself to have the best learning experience and be ready to do your best in exams, we recommend that you try out our suggestions in this article for yourself. Do also consider attending tuition classes to help you make up ground on your peers.