The Real Secret to Being Great at Math

Become Great at Math

Of all the subjects, why do kids hate only Math?

Many people would tell you, it’s because, well, they aren’t cut out for Math.

I mean, REALLY! …If it was so impossible to master Math, why would all the schools – across the globe – teach it to every student?

I assure you, there is no Math concept that is beyond your understanding, IF you are ready for it. There is no problem that cannot be solved if you are good with your basics.

 

Why do so many kids struggle with Math?

Often, it is the intimidating drill-today-drill-tomorrow practice sessions that ‘beats’ the kids away. Sometimes, it’s because the kid has ‘comprehension’ issues, that is, one fails to grasp what they are being asked to do; and sometimes, because one chooses to cram the concepts before learning to appreciate their structure.

 

Did someone tell you that Math is all about doing fast calculations?

Well, they are wrong!! Here’s why:

Mastering Math is a lot more than being fast with calculations. A good problem solver – and that’s what all successful people do – is someone who questions, finds, investigates and explores solutions to a problem. The best problem solvers stick to a problem as long as it takes to solve it. They can use everyday situations to create beautiful solutions.

(Do you remember the story of John F. Nash Jr.?)

 

The real secret to being great at Math

Here are some tips to help build your confidence, and to make Math learning a part of your life.

  1. Every problem has multiple solutions

Learning math isn’t about just finding the right answer. It’s about learning to use math to solve problems. It’s about understanding the problem, and devising a plan to solve it. There are multiple techniques to solve problems. Remember, accuracy is important, however, as a student, it is the process that matters the most.

How to solve problems

 

  1. There are no wrong answers

What matters more in mathematics is not the skill, but the confidence of the mathematician. Wrong answers are invaluable assets; they tell that there is a mistake in the process. Teach yourself to use the incorrect answers, and trace your steps backwards to find the mistake. It would have a three-fold advantage:

  1. It would help develop your analytic skills

  2. Reinforce your conceptual knowledge

  3. Improve your reasoning skills

 

  1. Doing Math in your head is very, very important [It helps]

Math is, probably, the only skill which grows exponentially if you can do Math in your head. Once a person learns to do Math in their head, there is no stopping them. Good mental-math skills can speed-up nearly everything that a person does in every-day life.

In fact, those unwieldy complex high school Math problems feel easier to students who can do simpler calculations in their head. It’s a value-able skill that would speed up everything that one is supposed to do past high-school.

Wrong answers are invaluable assets

  1. It is okay to use calculators [sometimes]

Even seen an impact wrench? It’s a power tool that helps mechanics to do things without effort; however, not everyone can use it. If the mechanic doesn’t know what he is doing, it can become really, really messy.

A calculator is just like an impact wrench – It helps one do things faster.  However, unless one is fluent with basic math operations, all it would do is create a mess. It’s not a substitute for mental math; it is rather a tool that frees your mind for attending to more important issues; and yes, it helps increase the accuracy of your answers too.

 

  1. Never [ever] be afraid to fail

That’s what all successful people do. Don’t let Math scare you.

Use the concepts that you have learned. Explore! Google! Ask for help – it is okay – you are a student. Talk with your friends – try various approaches to solve the problem. Never ever let a problem cross you unless you have given it a try.

Never be scared of Math Problems

Learning Math isn’t just about learning your tables or solving equations. It’s your attitude towards Math that matters the most. It’s a skill that would help you throughout your life. You’d be using Math at work; you would need it at the gas station; and you would need it every time you want to paint your house.

Math is at the center of everything around us. It is the way our universe works. It is the language of doing things.

 

Ref:  U.S. Department of Education, Office of Communications and Outreach, Helping Your Child Learn Mathematics, Washington, D.C., 2005.

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