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Help With Math – 5 Key Strategies For Success In High School Mathematics Courses
Succeeding in a high school mathematics course does not happen by chance. Granted, some students seem to get through with little or no effort. But for the majority of students, math lessons are the hardest to master.
I believe one of the reasons students struggle more with math classes is that they tend to apply the same study skills as in other classes. Learning mathematics is more than reading and recalling facts. This requires a deep level of understanding, and logical reasoning and critical thinking skills are essential.
The following strategies are some of the most fundamental for students who wish to succeed in mathematics courses.
Don’t stay behind. It’s hard to catch up if you miss key concepts. Mathematical concepts build on each other. Understanding today’s lesson will probably require using something you learned from yesterday’s or last week’s lesson. If you’re having trouble understanding a new concept, make sure you don’t just “give it up”. Take care of it by asking the teacher questions, getting extra help, whatever it takes to make sure you’ve mastered that skill before moving on to the next one.
Take notes in class. Many students have the misperception that math lessons shouldn’t require taking notes. For some reason, they are happy to take notes in history or English lessons, but feel that for math lessons, they only have to “work on the problems”. What often happens is that students follow and understand the teacher’s examples and explanations during class time, but when they later start doing their homework and applying what was presented in class, they forgot some key principles. Students must copy the examples worked on by the teacher into their notebooks and take notes on the presentations or lessons given in class. Notes don’t need to be elaborate and should be written with the aim of having something to refer to later for easy understanding.
Ask questions in class. I know this can be difficult for some students. They don’t want to look “stupid”. Any good teacher will encourage students to ask questions and foster a classroom environment that facilitates the task. I often told my students that if they were having trouble understanding a concept, then probably a lot of other students in the class had the same problem and they should let me know.
Do a quick review before class begins. This is even more important if the school happens to be on a block schedule that meets every class every other day. Spending just about five minutes reviewing what was presented in the last lesson can make a huge difference in how well you retain and internalize information. Homework may have been done two days ago, put away and forgotten. Spending a few minutes going through it can help reinforce the concepts and critical thinking skills used.
Reflect on your results. Try to do a little more than just “solving homework problems”. Students tend to rush through assigned problems, slam their books down, and feel relieved to be done. After working on a problem or a group of problems, go back and think about what you had to do for each one. Think about the skills that were used, the old and new concepts that were applied. Think about how different groups of problems require different skills and how you may have had to adjust your thinking. Spending a few extra minutes thinking before you slam that book shut can reap huge rewards when it comes to real learning.
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