Math class is a sharp contrast from your usual class.

The average student is either mediocre at math but good in every other subject or good in math but mediocre in every other subject.

Sound familiar? Maybe it sounds like you?

That’s because math has some big differences from other classes.

It can’t be done the same way as most other classes without expecting different results.

You don’t have to suck in math!

There is another way.

In fact, math can be easy.

You’ve probably never been taught a few simple things that make math way more fun.

This isn’t the kind of stuff you’re taught in school. In fact, plenty of classes will discourage this kind of thinking.

Math is special. It has its own rules to play by.

Most classes have a large amount of subjectivity in the grading.

That means students don’t need to know the answer to convince their teaching they know enough about the subject.

The process doesn’t matter in most classes. In math, class it’s different.

Your grade depends on following a specific process in order to get 1 specific answer.

No smooth wording can fool your teacher into thinking you’ve figured it out.

You actually have to go about figuring it out.

This is how to make that happen.

1. Keep Lighting Fast

On this blog, you’ll constantly hear advice to work quickly.

With math class, there are some sharp differences but working fast can still benefit you quite a bit.

It’s good practice to work as fast as you feel comfortable.

Working fast is a stress prevention tool.

The faster you’re able to work, the less likely you tie yourself in knots trying to figure something out.

You’ll just follow the processes that you know as closely as possible and, if everything goes as planned, those processes will bring you to the results you need.

This, of course, comes with a major disadvantage in math class.

Silly little mistakes constantly drag the average student’s grades down.

Forgetting a negative sign can be the difference between a right answer and a wrong answer.

This is a problem that most students attempt to solve by slowing down but slowing down brings its own problems.

Slowing down just decreases your enthusiasm, it doesn’t challenge you into becoming more skilled, and it can stress you out.

There is a better way. Be quick…

If you’re paying attention to the next parts of this strategy then you won’t suck in math class because of those silly little mistakes.

2. But Be Painfully Redundant

Instead of slowing down through your math assignments, speed up and look for any way to check your own work while you’re doing it.

In algebra, there are virtually always good ways that you can double check your answers after you get them.

You can just plug the answer into the equation to see if it balances out.

Always take advantage of these methods of checking your work.

They allow you to get better through additional practice, keep moving quickly while ensuring you get the right answer, and show the teacher that you did your due diligence.

Overall, you’ll produce more work on your paper but you’ll spend less time on the problems.

When you know you’re going to be checking your work, you can speed through the problems at a pace that you’re not used to.

You can’t suck in math class if you check your work until you get the answer right.

Time is your only restraint.

That’s why you should go fast.

This extra work on your paper also helps when you’re looking for…

3. Be Partial To Partial Credit

Always show every bit of work you can show. You may not need to write everything down but write it down anyway

Everyone makes mistakes. In math class, one of the biggest lifesavers you have is partial credit.

Write all your work and you’ll get significantly more points for your mistakes.

Also, in situations where you have a tight deadline for your questions, it may be worth trying to solve everything before you even find the write answer for earlier problems.

That means you’ll have a chance at partial credit for every single problem.

That leads to one of the most important things to realize about math.

4. It’s Process Oriented As Hell

In virtually every other class, the methods you use to reach your conclusion have a whole lot of room for playing around.

In English class, you can write persuasive essays filled with logical fallacies and still get full credit because the teacher doesn’t really care how you reached your conclusions.

The teacher cares more about how you’re presenting them.

Good essays have almost nothing to do with the process.

Even skipping the traditional essay writing strategies you can create a great essay.

In most English classes, students are taught to outline their essays but most of those same classes don’t actually grade their students on whether or not they wrote an outline for their essay.

They may teach the process but there is very little incentive to actually use it.

Math is almost all about following a process.

It’s usually best learned through practice.

If you want to get more skilled at doing it then you practice it like you practice any other skill.

Past a certain level, it’s no longer about epiphanies.

It slowly becomes a matter of solving problems through following a step by step procedure.

Learn the processes and practice them.

It needs to be done.

You would suck at any process oriented thing if you never were willing to put the time in to learn them.

You will suck in math if you don’t spend the time to practice.

Some things prevent this from being possible though.

5. Keep Up Or Catch Up (Or Suck)

You need to stay up to date in math class.

Math is one of the few classes where missing one or two classes can be absolutely devastating for a grade.

Most processes in math are not all that complicated when you’re prepared to handle them.

They’re basic procedures that just need to be followed step by step.

The problem is that those steps stack on top of each other. Teachers don’t reteach you every step they taught you before.

You’re expected to know those previous steps.

If you don’t, your grade will suffer the consequences.

You will suck in math because you sucked at it in the past.

Sucking doesn’t have to be a permanent problem though.

Math is process oriented and it’s also unusually focused on this…

6. Understanding Is The Master Key

We write a lot about the difference between understanding and memorization on this blog. You might want to read: When To Memorize And When To Understand

In math class, memorization is useless.

In almost every situation, knowing how the process works will give you all the memorization you need to solve the problem.

You need to understand the subject to get anywhere.

Memorization is only a tiny and (almost) completely ignorable factor.

Most equations can be derived from other equations easier than they can be remembered.

Math is one of the classes where you should complete at least enough homework to prove you know what you’re doing.

You should do at least the first and last question of each kind of problem on your assignments.

If you get those without any big problems then you can think about cutting some work for efficiency’s sake.

After understanding you can worry about…

7. The Safe Way To Skip Stuff

While you should be doing at least some of most homework assignments you receive.

Math classes are one of the most common classes to have massively inefficient homework assignments.

Most math classes have homework virtually every night.

Often, homework is only a small percentage of your grade.

That homework might not be worth doing consistently for the points you get for them.

If you understand a homework assignment and you can prove the homework assignment isn’t particularly valuable for your grade then you can consider skipping it.

Practice doesn’t hurt but if you have better things to do then you’d be crazy to waste your time doing hour long assignments that aren’t worth a notable change to your final grade.

Completing boring and unproductive work will just encourage you to continue to suck in math class.

By focusing more on your important assignments you can appreciate the positives of math a whole lot easier.

While you’re working on these assignments you should consider the importance of this last factor.

8. Neatness Offers A Surprising Result

There are very few classes that you have something you can screw up based on not being particularly neat.

Sure… In virtually every class, you lose points through being messier.

Teachers don’t like messy students.

Messy students instantly categorize themselves with lazy students.

Not only that but messy students make the teacher’s job dramatically harder.

That’s not the way to win over your teachers.

In math class, the problem goes even farther than this.

A big chunk of those silly mistakes like forgetting negative signs come down to a student’s miserable handwriting.

If a student is randomly squeezing in numbers and signs, they’re much less likely to catch some awkwardly placed aspect of their problem.

That means they can lose characters and end up getting the wrong answer.

Poor penmanship is a terrible excuse to suck in math.

While redundancy will, ideally, correct this problems, when you don’t have time for redundancy, you’ll be happy you at least tried to work neat.

There is a balance to neatness.

You don’t need to look like you’re typing your assignments but you shouldn’t be letting it hold you back.

Math isn’t the only area that this blog might be able to help you.

You don’t have to suck in math or english or any other class that you’re required to take.

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How To Not Suck In Math Class

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8 thoughts on “How To Not Suck In Math Class

  • December 3, 2016 at 8:57 am
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    Great Article! “Math is not about memorization, it’s about understanding”. Well said. If you try to learn math by heart, it is game over for you in the exam. Math is actually quite simple if you get to know the concept. You don’t really need to even open your books the previous day of math exam if your concepts are thorough! 🙂

    Reply
  • June 23, 2016 at 5:37 pm
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    I don’t know about being quick. I would think that would slow down getting the understanding. I feel like spending more time is better because you get the material better in the process.

    Reply
    • June 23, 2016 at 5:53 pm
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      If you don’t really understand it then you’ll struggle to go fast anyway.

      If you do understand it then you’d be wasting your time to go slow.

      I should probably clarify that rushing while you are seriously confused is a bad idea.

      Thanks for the comment!

      Reply
  • June 22, 2016 at 7:38 pm
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    Awesome! Just what I needed.

    Reply
  • June 22, 2016 at 7:19 am
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    Sucking up to the teacher to get more points… I guess it’s easier than studying.

    Reply
  • June 21, 2016 at 3:35 am
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    Any more tips for catching up?

    Reply
    • June 23, 2016 at 5:50 pm
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      Be ready to put the work in. For most people, once they catch up it becomes easy not to fall too far behind. Catching up is a serious challenge. This is one of those rare times when I approve of adding in extra study sessions and increasing your study time a smidgen.

      And, I know people usually hate to hear this but ask someone for help. Catching up is a guessing game when you don’t have some kind of guidance toward what you’re really struggling with. Often you won’t even realize you’re misunderstanding certain stuff until someone points it out.

      The whole time just remember that catching up is a temporary problem. Once you’re caught up you won’t have to work quite as hard.

      Reply

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