Become a math whiz with these 5 tried-and-true methods

how to get better at math
Many students struggle with understanding math. Source: AFP

Learning math is important because it ensures you have valuable skills that can shape your future. 

To prove our point, let’s start with a fun fact: did you know that people with strong math skills tend to earn more money?

On average, those with a background in math make 33% more than their peers. 

For example, if you’re planning to become an engineer, the median annual salary in the US is around US$106,877, while the median salary for a non-math-intensive job is about US$65,000

So, it’s clear that by learning how to get better at math, you can pave the way for a brighter financial future, right?

It gets even better: we’re already doing tons of mathematical equations in our daily lives without realising it — think of the times you split the bill with your friends or when you manage your daily expenses. 

how to get better at math

Though math is difficult, it is essential in our everyday lives. Source: AFP

Why is math important?

Math is not just about numbers; it’s about problem-solving and critical thinking. 

Just think about it: 

  • Studies show that students who excel in math also perform better in other subjects. If you’re skilled in math, you might find it easier to understand complex science concepts. 
  • Math equips you with the ability to analyse data, a skill in high demand in today’s job market. Many industries, from healthcare to finance, rely on data analysis to make informed decisions.
  • Maths can also bring about several advantages for you as a student. It helps you develop problem-solving skills, which prove indispensable in your daily life.
  • Maths is essential for many fields of study. Should you aspire to pursue a career in architecture, maths is needed for designing structures and making precise dimensional calculations. Even if you aspire to become a chef, maths is required even in the most simple tasks, such as measuring ingredients or adjusting recipes.

Though you may try to run away from it, learning math is a valuable skill that can open doors to countless opportunities in your future. 

Why do many struggle with math?

Many university students find math challenging for several reasons. 

One major factor is that the level of math required in college can be significantly more advanced than what they encountered in high school. 

For example, the Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teachers College found that nearly 60% of college students who took remedial math courses struggled to catch up. 

This gap in math skills can lead to frustration and anxiety when faced with college-level math courses, making it difficult for students to keep up.

Plus, unlike subjects where you can directly observe and apply your knowledge, math often deals with theoretical concepts and complex formulas. 

Calculus, a common university math course, involves concepts like limits and derivatives that can be difficult to grasp without a strong foundation. 

This can make it hard for you to see the practical applications of math, leading to struggles in the classroom.

how to get better at math

Working with peers is a great way to overcome difficult math problems together. Source: AFP

Pro tip: Don’t hesitate to ask for help

Have you ever been in a classroom situation where you felt confused about the lesson but remained silent instead of asking for clarification?

Some students may feel reluctant to ask questions, fearing that their peers have grasped the material while they have not.

Others might worry about slowing down the class or drawing too much attention to themselves.

Whatever the reason, these concerns should not deter you from seeking help in the classroom.

Always remember there’s no such thing as a foolish question — they fuel your curiosity to learn.

The answer to your question can benefit you and your fellow students.

You might even be surprised to discover that many of your peers often share the same questions but are too scared to speak up.

That said, here’s some extra tips on you get to get better at math.

5 tried-and-true methods to getting better at maths

how to get better at math

Continuous practice in math can help you to improve in the subject. Source: AFP

1. Practice makes perfect

Practising math is like learning to ride a bike or bake; the more you do it, the better you become.

Imagine you’re trying to master multiplication.

At first, you might find it tricky to remember all those times tables. But if you practice every day — say you set aside 10 minutes — you start to remember them better.

Practice helps your brain get used to the patterns in math, like knowing that when you multiply any number by 0, the answer is always 0.

Another reason practice makes perfect in math is because it helps you tackle tougher problems.

Let’s say you’re learning to solve equations.

At first, it might be confusing, but you get the hang of it with practice. You start with simple equations like 2x + 3 = 9. After some practice, you can handle more complex ones, like 3(2x – 5) = 18.

Educational research also suggests that students who dedicate time to math practice consistently outperform their peers.

For instance, a study by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics found that students who engaged in regular math practice scored 21 points higher on standardised tests than those who did not.

Imagine a student grappling with algebraic equations.

At first, the concepts may seem convoluted, the variables perplexing.

However, things become clearer as they persistently practice solving equations by applying various methods and strategies.

That said, a great way to become better at math is by creating a routine for solving problems and mastering the concepts.

If you can get into a good routine, you’ll not have to worry about repeating the same problem over and over again because you already mastered it.

how to get better at math

If you are looking for ways on how to get better at math, try focusing on the fundamentals before tackling bigger challenges. Source: AFP

2. Focus on the fundamentals

Focusing on math fundamentals is like building a strong foundation for a tall, sturdy building.

Once you’ve got those down, you can tackle bigger challenges.

If you skip the fundamentals, you might stumble when encountering more complex math problems later — making it all the more important to pay attention to the basics.

By mastering them, you’ll find math much more enjoyable and easier.

Also, it’s important to have a clear and solid grasp of the fundamentals before jumping to the next topic.

So, forget addition and subtraction; you first need to understand multiplication and division.

In this, it could be tempting to skip topics you find overwhelming or challenging.

While jumping to another topic may be easier, this momentary escape can prove counterintuitive and restrict progress with other mathematical topics.

To counter this, look for other ways to approach new math ideas.

After all, math relies on foundations when introducing sequential topics.

For example, you’ll start with the basics like adding, subtracting, dividing, and multiplying. Once you have mastered that, you can move on to harder math such as algebra, geometry and calculus.

how to get better at math

Working without distractions is a good start if you are looking into how to get better at math. Source: AFP

3. Restricting distractions

When it comes to getting better at math, one of the most important things you can do is to restrict distractions. 

Picture yourself solving a tricky math puzzle, but your phone buzzes with notifications.

So, before you sit down to practice, make sure you’re in a place where you won’t be distracted. 

Find a quiet place away from the various distractions. A study room is necessary when you need to focus on your study. 

That includes social media, which is undeniably one of our biggest distractions. 

Based on a study done, 82% of GenZ’s claim that social media distracts them from school. 

While we understand the urge to scroll on TikTok or see what your friends are up to on Instagram, putting your phone away when learning to be better at math might be the best way to ensure you give your work undivided attention.

By restricting distractions, like turning off your phone or finding a quiet place to study, you’re giving your brain the best chance to concentrate on math.

The results? When you limit distractions and create a peaceful environment, you can truly focus on breaking down the math problem step by step. 

4. Break down complex problems into digestible chunks

Essentially, math is just about breaking down complex problems into simpler ones and then dealing with them individually until you solve the problem.

Calculations involving numbers, sizes, or other measures are considered basic math skills.

These skills include the fundamentals like addition and subtraction as well as more advanced arithmetic ideas built on them.

Take finding the volume of a complicated three-dimensional shape, for example.

It might feel overwhelming if you try to tackle it all at once.

But it becomes much easier to handle if you break it down into smaller steps, like finding the area of each face and then multiplying those areas together.

Breaking it down helps you avoid confusion and errors — just like building a house starts with laying the foundation and then adding walls and a roof.

5. Using online tools or apps

Using online tools and mobile apps, such as apps and websites offering interactive lessons, can be a real game-changer when improving your math skills. 

You can download questions, sign up for classes for difficult topics, ask questions on Quora or even do a random Google search, and somehow you will get a solution. 

If you’re looking to start, Khan Academy offers many instructional videos and exercises on various math topics. It suits learners of all levels, from basic math to advanced calculus.

While primarily known for language learning, Duolingo also offers a course on basic math, which can be helpful.

Beyond this, you can play games related to maths so that it becomes a part of your fun activity and not a stress point.