Studying math is hard.

Unlike other subjects that require a lot of memorization, math is about learning techniques, concepts, and then applying them. Studying math allows you to become a problem solver. When it comes time to prepare, your best approach is to start at the beginning of the course material. Walk through it until you come to a concept that you struggle with, work through examples, and then practice questions until it clicks. Studying for math tests and exams is one mental leap after another, with a deadline looming to boot. I’ve worked as a math tutor and I’ve worked with students who were struggling close to the time of an exam. Here are some methods that students and I found useful for preparing for an exam.

1. Go through all of your tests from the past term question by question

If you got a question wrong, try it again without looking at the right answer (cover up the answer with a piece of paper or a book or something).  This might take time as you may need to refresh yourself from notes or a textbook on how to do the problem. Once you are done compare with the corrected answer on the test and see if you got the same answer as before, the correct answer or if you made a different mistake.  If you got the right answer, congratulations, You can move on the next incorrect test question!  If you made the same mistake as before, review your teacher’s comments. If the comments make sense to you and you can see where you went wrong, cover up the answer again and attempt to fix the answer you just wrote down. Once fixed, check your answer again and repeat until you get it right. If you get stuck in an endless loop, consider consulting someone who might be able to help. If you made a different mistake than before take a look at where your answer differs and try to work out where you went wrong and correct your work.

Once you have been through all of your mistakes on your past tests from the class, you can be confident that you understand or at least have understood all of the course content at one point in your life.

2. Do questions you haven’t tried before

I used to have teachers assign even numbered questions from the textbook. Doing some of the odd numbered ones and comparing your final answer against the answer key in the back of the book or against the work of a study partner or study group is a really good way to cement your understanding of a topic and to improve your efficiency with a particular technique.

3. Use an online study tool

Try an online study tool.  Minute School is a great app for studying math. The system allows you to work on mobile devices, has dynamically-generated questions (so you don’t see the same questions again), provides explanations with your answers, and breaks down concepts into manageable chunks.  I’ve helped to build this tool and I’m proud of what it can do.

4. Ask for help

If you are really struggling with a topic, ask someone you trust for help – an older sibling, a parent, a friend who will take your request seriously, or your teacher. There are some tutoring groups on Facebook that can help or the math help subreddit can be a good resource.

5. Hire a tutor

You will get the best bang for your buck if you are able to ask specific questions of a tutor.  Do the first pass of the material when you are not paying by the hour and then bring your difficult questions to a tutor so that they can help you get over the issues you are really struggling with.

All the best with your math studying.

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