STUDENT: How do I study for Maths?
TEACHER: Do practice questions.
Sound familiar? It should. Practice questions are the bread and butter of Maths study. But that doesn’t mean they’re ALL you can do. If you’re looking for some ideas of ways to creatively study for Maths, read on.
1. Make and use flash cards
Every time I say this to my students, they look at me like I’ve got two heads.
“Flash cards are used to memorise facts, not practice questions.”
To which I say: WHY? Why not use flash cards to learn Maths? Fill the cards with quick questions that you should be able to answer instantly, fill them with notes about theory, formulae you are supposed to memorise, or whatever else is going to be useful! Just because it’s not traditionally the way things are done, doesn’t mean it’s wrong!
2. Teach someone else
There is nothing quite like explaining a concept to someone else to help you nail it yourself. In explaining ideas, concepts and methods, you develop a much deeper understanding.
The reason for this is pretty simple: every time someone asks you “why?” you have to break down what comes to you naturally. Nuances that may seem obvious to you are not to other people, which means you can deepen your own understanding by helping others. Cool, right?
3. Build your own practice questions and solutions
Have you ever tried making up your own questions? It’s not as easy as it sounds. Especially if you want to engineer them so that the answer is relatively straightforward and achievable.
But this difficulty is why it is such good practice! Next time you want to do a little creative study, try to come up with 5 practice questions (complete with solutions) that you can swap with a friend.
This has quite a few layers of study involved: you have to create the questions work out the solutions, probably redesign the questions until they’re a bit smoother, double check the solutions, then go and attempt your friend’s questions.
As an added bonus, try to take on the role of a teacher and explain to your friend why they went wrong (if they did) in answering your questions.
4. Ask “Why?”
Take a random concept or exercise from your book. And pick an easy question (preferably not a worded one). Hopefully actually answering the question should be easy. But instead of just going through the motions, take a second after every step and ask yourself why? Why did you use that formula, that method? Why did you rearrange? And, often more importantly, why did you do it this way and not that?
Knowing the why is a huge aspect of Maths that is often glazed over. Which is a shame, because it’s one of the most effective methods of learning.
Practice Questions are great – but there are other options!
Trust me, having a few creative ways to study is essentials. You get bored otherwise. Like, REALLY bored. By giving yourself an opportunity to mix it up a little, you’ll find Maths and study aren’t as painful as they seem!
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