Take a moment and think about your greatest talent or accomplishment. Did it come naturally to you? Regardless of your inherent skills and natural gifts, I’d wager there’s no fluke as to why you became proficient at it? You probably practiced it. Even those once-in-a-lifetime achievements are not flash-pan. It takes consistent rehearsal to master any skill, conventional wisdom pointing towards about 10,000 hours of active repetition to completely develop any proficiency, skill, or craft.
Cognitive sciences hold that the brain retains information through the creation of neural path via a process called “rehearsal”. Building a highway incorporates this rehearsal process into a simple analogy. The first time we see a new vocabulary word or equation, the brain begins the process of cataloging that information by making a very linear path to the idea. Prefatory manipulation of that same information soon develops that road into a two-lane highway, one could think of as an ellipse. Over time, the more we use a given fact or review a certain concept, we keep elaborating on this highway and eventually our brain adds passing lanes and short-cuts along that same highway; instead of one to and fro’ route created to reach the destination, the brain builds a myriad of possibilities to aide in our scholarly journey.
As soon as you find something you enjoy, or something that really sparks your interest, “go with it”. Do not hesitate to find sixth gear and “put the pedal to the metal”. As we break down individual pieces of something we begin to not simply understand what, but why. Several highly successful entrepreneurs and artists vigorously rehearse this truly simple process:
- Write. It. Down.
Get a small notebook, and keep it and a pen on you at all times. Pockets are for things, not your hands. Even a simple one-word note can lock it in your “thought processor”.
Did you capture everything the first time? What was it that you really wanted to say?
- Re-work. Re-build. Re-do.
Was that everything you wanted to know? Is that the only reason you wanted to know it? Is that the last time you want to visit this?
- HAVE FUN WITH THE PROCESS
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
Many awesome things are nonsense the first time we experience them, right? At some point we all could not talk or form sentences, we could not write, we could not read… In grammar school we constantly rehearsed these skills, and continue to rehearse these techniques the rest of our lives. Mastering a skill takes no more effort than continuous performance and utilization of that skill. As the saying goes: “You know how you get to Carnegie Hall, don’t ya?” Practice. That first draft pales in comparison to that final, proofed, and re-worked draft. Your first solo will probably not be the best, but your last will certainly NOT be the worst.
What is a Math Person Anyway?
“I’m just not a math person!” A phrase often said multiple times by students, but one that is quite false. But, what is a math person anyway? While math ability may be genetic to some, there are many different factors that could assist you in becoming a better math student all around. To showcase this, I dive into two factors that could help you become a more successful math student in the future:
One of the keys used to achieve the highest level of potential in a certain area of study is preparation. Athletes practice their craft everyday in order to become the best they can be. Musicians prepare their music and practice for numerous hours before ever thinking about stepping on to a live stage in front of their fans. The same principle applies when it comes to the study of mathematics. The most common quote could not be more true for math as practice truly does make perfect. Math requires being exposed to numerous problems in order to fully grasp all the ways a question could be asked to you. Without proper preparation, you are only hindering yourself from the success you could be seeing. Preparation helps take down the surprise effect whenever you’re sitting in class for a test and running through the questions. On top of that, preparation makes you feel more confident, which in turn could lead to more engagement in class or even with a tutor if you’re seeing one. This boosted confidence is just a reassurance to yourself that you’re starting to understand the concepts better and next thing you know, you yourself are slowly becoming that almighty “math person”!
This principle is definitely overlooked, but ties in hand-in-hand with the skill of preparation. Students should attempt to become an organized person, as it helps in the studying process for tests and quizzes they will foresee in math. For example, a highly organized person always knows where to look back for practice problems, notes, and even homework assignments when preparing for upcoming tests and finals. This can come in handy as they will be able to not only follow along with their notes, but they’ll be able to utilize them in order to create practice tests and problems for a complete review. Organization is one of the key factors tied with any successful person in any industry, and so it certainly matters in the learning of mathematics!
All in all, I want it to be known that anybody can achieve the status of being a “math person”. These two factors are certainly not the only ones that can help benefit you in the long run, but they can be seen as the building blocks to beginning your successful math journey. It all starts with some preparation and organization and the future of your math career is all in your hands! So next time you see that student next to you make that high math grade, remember, it’s more likely that he or she was prepared and organized and worked for that grade and is not just a “math person”.
Math is a pretty hard subject to grasp when it doesn’t come naturally to you, but there is always a way to learn. Here are a few methods that will get you through the struggle:
- DO Math
Time and time again we see students come in at the last minute to study for an exam. This is not a very effective way of learning. In order to truly understand math, you have to DO it. And I don’t mean just the homework, do extra! If you didn’t understand the homework fully by the time you got to the end, that is an indication that you need to search for some extra practice. If you have a textbook, this is the easiest way to find extra practice. Typically teachers do not assign you all of the problems in a certain section. Do the unassigned problems, and if the answers aren’t at the end of the book: use Google! I promise you can always find some way to check your work. If you don’t have a textbook, search the subject plus the word “worksheet” in Google. A lot of times you’ll find something that comes up and has the answers! If all else fails, ask your teacher where you could find some extra practice. They may just provide it for you!
- Take Notes
I know you are thinking, well duh, but some students don’t know how to take notes in math. If you aren’t already math-minded, you may not understand just an example of a problem without explanations between steps, so write down the example with the steps in words! (If you teacher is moving too fast, ask him/her politely to slow down, trust me, other students in your class with thank you for it.) Here is an example of what I mean:
Factor: 2x^2 + 4x + 2
Step 1: Look for a common factor, we see that it is 2, so divide every term by 2
2(x^2 + 2x + 1)
Step 2: For trinomials with a leading coefficient of 1, we can find two numbers that multiply to the last number and add to the middle number.
Step 3: These numbers become the factors!
Personalize these to fit your needs! Experiment with different methods and find what the best one for you is. If you miss something in class, make sure to ask your teacher after class or during your lunch/study hall. And if you can: email them! They are there to help you, so take advantage of all of the time you have.
- Keep Organized!
It helps a lot to keep your notebook and your work organized. Keep section/chapters in order with the homework, so it is easier to look back if you are reviewing. Also, organize your work by keeping steps clear and logical. If you can’t write all of your work neatly and understandable on the worksheet provided, use extra paper! It will be easier for you to understand when looking back.
- Review for Tests
If your teacher does not provide a review for you, just ask! Most teachers will at least give you a list of all topics that will be on the test. Take a look back at your notes, and look back on the homeworks. Choose 4 to 5 questions from each section to practice. If you get them all correct, yay! If not, redo the whole assignment. Don’t wait until the last minute to start studying for the test. Start a week before and go section by section. This will ensure that you will have time to ask the teacher questions if you are having trouble with a certain sections.
I know that math is not an easy subject for everyone, but the best way to beat a problem is by working. Never give up, and keep pushing through, one example at a time.
Tips for Students and Parents
And just like that, another summer is over and a new school year begins! Here are some tips for both parents and students to work together to ensure a successful school year.
1. Set goals: Write them out clearly and display them somewhere that you see them everyday
ex: I will complete my HW before I watch TV
2. Get organized: This includes finding a way to organize papers going back and forth from subject to subject. How are you going to know what your assignments are and when they are due?
3. Plan: What HW, tests, and quizzes do you have this week? How will you prepare for them? Make sure you plan out your study time.
4. Practice: This is how you learn! Make time each day to practice.
5. Get Help: Are you not understanding what you are supposed to be learning? Ask! Get help! Go to your teacher, parent, and of course, MaThCliX! That is what we are here for.
1. Make sure that you know how to communicate with your student’s teacher. Know when conferences are and plan to have a presence and be proactive in your student’s academics.
2. Check grades! Even if your student is old enough to check their own grades, it never hurts to have a parent checking, too. Know when progress reports and report cards are due. If you see grades dropping, intervene quickly!
3. Make sure your student is doing the success tips for students. Ask them how they are doing each one.
4. Find out about what student’s are learning each week so that you can help or get help, as needed. Find out about tutorials, teacher websites, and recommended resources.
5. Bring your student to MaThCliX!
The Importance of AP Exams
The majority of people know what an Advanced Placement (AP) course is, but many do not realize the true importance of taking these higher level classes, as well as the AP Exams. There are many benefits of taking AP classes, including but not limited to: the increased rigor of your overall course load which colleges take into consideration during the application process, an added 0.5 onto your letter grade which counts towards your HOPE GPA (for example, if you make a “B” in an AP class, it counts as a 3.5 instead of a 3.0), and an extra ten points on your net grade point average which class rank is based off of. However, the biggest reason to take an AP class is to succeed on the corresponding AP test in May and receive college credit for the class.
The AP exams are scored on a 1-5 scale; generally 10% of people get 5’s, 20% of people get 4’s, 20% of people get 3’s, and the remaining 50% receive either a 1 or a 2. The College Board, the organization that creates the tests each year, designs the exams and scoring system in an effort to only give approximately half of the people that take the test college credit, which at most universities is a 3 or higher.. However, if you have a good work ethic in the course throughout the year and then study heavily prior to the test, a 3 or higher is definitely attainable.
If you pace yourself with AP classes starting freshman year, it is very possible to come out of high school as a sophomore in college – which would save anywhere between $5,000 to $40,000 depending on the university. A suggested AP course schedule to complete this task is as follows: one AP class freshman year, two sophomore year, 3-4 junior year, and 2-4 senior year. Each exam that you score well on gives you anywhere from 3-6 credit hours – keep in mind a full year of college consists of 30 hours. So this means that to complete a full year from AP exams requires passing about 7-9 of these tests. Although you do have to pay to take the exam – about $95 per test – that is a heck of a lot better than paying thousands for the first year in college.
Keeping Focused in Classes You Don’t Enjoy
By Tyler Mathena
Nobody likes every subject in school. Teachers love to pretend that their subject is fascinating to everybody because they like it, but it is pretty clear that is not the case. Many students are passionate about history, others prefer english, and some (like myself) love math and science. As a student, I know how difficult it is to justify learning material in classes that aren’t your favorite, but it is important to learn every subject.
Every subject, regardless of how bizarre or boring, can be applied to real life. Math is everywhere, every job has to write occasionally, and past events are extremely relevant and can help you understand why the world is the way that it is. Also, learning to pay attention and feign interest in these subjects can help you learn how to learn. In your future job, no matter what it is, there will be things you have to learn that you may think are not important. Learning these subjects that you do not like in school makes learning these skills much easier and can make you seem mature to your employer.
Additionally, if you walk into a class convinced that you are going to despise it, then you will. Keep an open mind and maybe you will be surprised. I have a history of disliking social studies classes, so I was not hopeful when I walked into the first day of Microeconomics. I kept an open mind though, and it turned out to be my favorite class of the semester. That single class inspired me to minor in business in college. Keeping an open mind can be tough when you know that you dislike similar classes, but it definitely pays off in the long run.
I know better than anyone that it is hard to stay awake in that one terrible class (we all have one!). Lucky for you, I have learned and stolen some tricks over the years that can make any class bearable. My best advice is to find a study partner. It is better if your partner enjoys the class because often their enthusiasm for the subject can rub off on you. Even if you both aren’t a fan of the class, simply studying with a friend can help. If you absolutely do not get along with anyone in the class, it can sometimes help to talk to the teacher before or after school and get them to honestly explain to you why they enjoy their subject. Again, the enthusiasm may rub off on you, or they may convince you that it is important by bringing something up that you never thought about.
If it is math that is not your thing, do not worry, you have MaThCliX! All of us here love math and it shows. Coming in often, even if you do not enjoy it at first, will make math (or any subject) at least bearable, if not phenomenal.