Five Essential Study Habits for Math Mastery

math study habits

Just like in math, effectively studying and excelling at the subject requires a steadfast formula, putting time, patience and consistency into the equation. As it’s a language in itself with its own formulas, symbols and vocabulary, one can’t simply skip over a concept and expect to be fluent in the next one. 

Luckily, there are five study habits that guarantee a steadfast journey to math excellence:

1. Actively Take Notes

Effectively studying math starts in the classroom. It’s not enough to sit there and listen to the teacher – even if they regularly put up their lecture slides online. The teacher will explain the slides but won’t have written their remarks on the presentation itself. If you hear the teacher say something that helps you better understand the materials covered, then writing it down during class is an excellent way to build upon your math knowledge. Look for key phrases or signs to develop this study habit like:

  • “X might be on the test”
  • Writings on the board
  • “Especially…”
  • Whenever the professor repeats a certain part

2. Study Without Distractions

Distractions hinder the learning process, as you’ll just get tempted to procrastinate instead.  Acquire the good study habit of getting rid of distractions when studying, like putting your phone on “Do Not Disturb” and staying away from screens that aren’t relevant to your learning.

However, you don’t need to be studying for hours on end – it’s good to give you and your brain a break every so often. Repeating this study habit will help make studying more natural and easy to do, giving you a comfortable yet impactful learning experience.

3. Study Ahead and Right After the Math Class

One of the best ways to do well in school is by studying ahead and after your math class to reinforce the knowledge learned. To start, eliminate these bad study habits:

  • Waiting until the last minute to study: Cramming may seem tempting, but doesn’t lead to long-term learning. In fact, a study by UCLA had shown that ninety-six percent of students did worse than those who spaced out their studying. Instead, read examples, definitions and the material ahead of class.

  • Assuming you understand a new concept by solving one question: Each concept yields different ways to solve its problems, which is why it’s always good to check your answers often. Frequently practice different problems of the concept to improve your problem-solving skills.

  • Only rereading the material: Refrain from solely rereading and, instead, strengthen your math skills by being an active learner. Rewrite your lecture notes to your understanding and redo errors you’ve made to learn how to get to the right solution. 

4. Regularly Complete Your Homework and Show Steps

Think of math as a muscle and homework as an exercise machine – the more consistent you are in doing it, the stronger your math skills will be. However, homework isn’t only about getting the right answers and completing it on time – it’s about how you got the right answers. This is why you may lose marks on your homework and tests if you don’t clearly show your thought process and work towards the right answer.

Showing the steps towards the answer helps you identify and review any errors you’ve made. When you fully understand where you went wrong, you’ll be able to steer clear of similar mistakes later on. 

5. Teach What You’ve Learned

After studying the notes and completing homework by yourself, solidify your understanding of what you’ve learned through teaching it to someone else. This method is an incredible study habit for memorization, as studies have shown that ninety percent of information is retained when one teaches others the concept learned. If you feel uncomfortable teaching someone, you can apply the math concept to a real-world problem instead, like the example below:

Example: Alexa spends $200 for groceries, $80 on phone and internet, $650 for rent and $100 for her monthly bus pass for a total of $1,030 each month for her essentials. She spends $100 for eating out, $80 for clothes and $60 for the cinemas, totaling at $240 for her “wants”. With her monthly income being $2000, how much money can she save?

When put in such perspective, the importance of math in everyday life is emphasized, helping you not only understand the concept but reinforce your motivation to better your math skills.

Math is often undermined by students who believe that it just isn’t for them or that it’s just too hard. However, with the right study habits and focus on genuine understanding, math will get easier to study and enjoy – putting you on that path to math mastery.

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A Guide for Studying Math –
How to Study Maths: 7 Tips for Solving Maths Problems –
Studying 101: Study Smarter Not Harder –
The 50/50 Rule (How to Retain And Remember 90% of Everything You Learn) –
How to Study Mathematics Effectively –
A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel in Math and Science (Even if You Flunked Algebra), by Barbara Oakley, Penguin, July, 2014.