Math is one of the three Rs– reading, writing, arithmetic– for a reason. It’s the foundation of all the sciences, from physics to psychology, and a basic understanding of math is crucial to making smart financial choices. Yet it has earned a reputation as one of the most unfavorable subjects for students from elementary school to college. Thankfully, there are several key strategies that will help anyone increase their math skills to change this.
Start with the Mindsets
There is a misconception going around that one can only be really good at math or not good at math at all. This way of thinking is called the fixed mindset and Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck believes it is holding students back. Once a student believes they’re “bad at math,” it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Stepping out of this downward spiral is as easy as recognizing that math ability and intelligence is like a muscle. With practice and hard work, anyone can become smarter and better at math. This idea is the growth mindset and Dweck’s research found that the mindsets can mean the difference between success and failure. No one is born good at math– skills are built over time and can always be improved.
Seek to Understand, not Memorize
Math teaches logic and reasoning long before any student is exposed to those ideas in philosophy or ethics class. It’s more than just numbers and formulas.
Simply memorizing a procedure or an equation with no context, reasoning, or connections makes the concept abstract and easily forgettable once the class ends. To make math skills stick from year to year, it’s important for students to understand why a procedure or formula is being applied and not just how to complete the steps.
Online math help is one of the best ways for students to truly understand complex math concepts. KhanAcademyis the foremost free education site with a background in math, offering videos and practice problems for everyone from kindergarten students to adult learners. Other free math sites like Cliff’s Notes offer notes and quizzes, and some have fun games.
It’s no secret that math can be boring and challenging at times. Students don’t have to worry though because math skills can be improved with strategies anyone can use and that in itself with make math much more fun for everyone!