My father was a mathematician and scientist. He could solve complex mathematical problems in his head, breaking down multivariable equations. I cannot do this. Most students cannot do this. Most students need to work at their own pace to mature as a math student. They need to develop strategies, to break down complex concepts, and to practice, practice, practice to master the most basic math skills. 

It is vital for students to pace themselves when learning math, as mathematical concepts build on each other. By the time students reach Algebra 1, they must have mastered all basic mathematical concepts. Students must make sure that they master Algebra 1 before moving ahead to Geometry and Algebra 2, as even the most advanced math classes, like Calculus, involve one complicated step followed by a series of steps of basic algebra. 

To become a successful math student, GAMECHANGER suggests the following 5 strategies:

  1. Ask a lot of questions. Students learn by asking questions. No question is irrelevant and by asking questions, students will be able to clarify concepts that they find confusing. If a student’s first question doesn’t clarify the concepts, he/she/they must ask follow up questions. This is the first step to help break down complexities and will make students feel more motivated to practice and study. 
  1. Practice, practice, practice. Practicing is something that must be done in addition to studying. Students can study for a test. But to truly master math skills, students must practice consistently. Think of math like a sport. Or learning an instrument. You have to continuously practice to master your technique. This means mastering essential basic skills, like addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division tables. Make flash cards and fill out tables. Successful math students will have basic math facts memorized so that solving more complex problems comes easier. Students’ knowledge of basic facts should facilitate learning more complex problems. With each level of complexity, students should practice concepts and techniques to help them master new skills. 
  1. Learn how to study. This means redoing all homework assignments. Practicing what students learn in class will help them to develop a deep understanding of mathematical concepts and problem-solving techniques. Learning to study also means analyzing and understanding mistakes. By looking at mistakes and learning from them, students are developing stronger problem solving skills. Students should also take notes as they practice math problems so that they can better understand their thought processes as they went through the problems. 
  1. Learn how to understand what your calculator is telling you. Students need to understand the answers that calculators give them. They need to analyze the calculator’s answer so that they can clearly explain the result, therefore demonstrating a strong understanding of concepts. Students should play around with their calculators to become familiar with the way they work so that they can optimize their use of calculators. Simply plugging in numbers and functions will lead to more mathematical confusion. 
  1. Get help. Mathematical concepts build on each other. Even at the most basic levels. If students don’t understand multiplication, they will not be able to divide. If students get stuck in Algebra 1, they will not be able to progress confidently or knowledgeably as math students. Mastering skills like solving systems of equations, graphing, and simplifying radicals are essential to moving forward in math.  If in class questions are not enough, go for extra help. If a student’s teacher isn’t clarifying complex concepts for him/her/them, contact GAMECHANGER to work with a seasoned math tutor, professional math teachers, or exceptional peer tutors.

Students shouldn’t worry if they cannot solve mathematical problems quickly or in their head. It is most important not to rush students ahead in math. Let students learn math at their own pace, giving them time to build skills, confidence, and maturity. Not every student will thrive in a fast paced math environment. It is more important that students build their math stamina, slowly and confidently, rather than jumping ahead before they are ready. Students who don’t rush ahead in math are more likely to develop a greater love for and understanding of math, making them confident, capable mathematicians.