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Sep 18 2017
by Lauren Reamy

How To Ace Your College Math Gen Ed Course

By Lauren Reamy - Sep 18 2017
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For a long time, I was afraid of math. The concepts just never clicked with me. I would be sitting in class trying to understand what the teacher was writing on the board, but I never was able to. This meant getting C's and D's in all of my years of math in high school. This led to a sour attitude about the subject altogether. I was simply not a math person, and that was okay. Lots of people aren't good at math, and they make it through life just fine. However, when I discovered I’d have to take a math class in college as a part of my general education requirements, I knew it was time to stop whining and put in effort. That’s how I went from not knowing anything on tests to knowing mostly everything and ending up with my first ever A in a math class.

Math is difficult for a lot of people, so to help you with your number-related struggles, I’ve put together a list of things that worked for me in understanding math. They may not work for everyone, but they’re certainly worth a try.

1. Practice every day.

Something that never clicked with me in high school was that math is a skill. If you want to get good any skill, you practice regularly. Math, like anything else you want to improve in, requires practice and repetition. How are you supposed to get better at something if you avoid it at all costs? Practicing math can be frustrating, but start with a few problems at a time and take breaks when you need them. Re-doing the practice problems from your notes is a good place to start, as you’ll have some recognition of the problem, but you’ll still have to work to solve it.

2. Do the non-required homework.

There will be professors who don’t check or grade the homework they assign, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. Remember how we were talking about practicing? Yeah, homework is a chance to test yourself and see how much you really understood from the lecture. Don’t know how to solve a problem? Go back to your notes and see if you can understand it after practicing. It’s a game of back and forth, but you will be so much better for it. Take non-required homework seriously and pretend it is required so that you’re practicing and reviewing as much as possible.

3. Participate in class.

It can be so easy to stay in the background during class, quietly taking notes, but that won’t help you with your math skills. As an anxious person, I understand that it can be difficult to speak up in front of everyone, but something I would recommend is actively listening. This means solving problems in your head as the professor is doing them on the board and even answering out loud when they ask the class as a whole what the answer is. This will at least keep you engaged, rather than passive. If you’re comfortable raising your hand, make a goal of doing so at least once or twice per class.

4. Find your weak areas.

It’s never a good idea to only study things you’re already confident with, especially when it comes to math. You only have a certain amount of weeks in the semester, so you might as well spend your time working on the concepts that are a little more difficult for you. Do so by first looking at past homework/quizzes and tests and taking note of which concepts you’ve tended to have trouble understanding and getting right. Then, get to work. You can either go over past notes or open your textbook and work on the practice problems in there.

5. Have a strong foundation. 

Everything in math builds on previous knowledge. This means that if you never take the time to understand what you’re learning in class, you’re more than likely going to have trouble with concepts in the future. Therefore, be diligent and make sure that you fully understand each concept. This will prevent stress moving forward, as you will have the proper foundation to learn what is coming next.

Another important factor in becoming better at math is asking for help when you need it. To this day, I’m convinced that I would’ve done so much better in high school if I’d just reached out, but my anxiety got in the way, hindering my ability to learn effectively. Don’t let math bring you down. Use these tips and commit to learning, and I promise that you will see good results. Yes, some people aren’t good at math, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn it. You can learn anything with the right amount of dedication, drive and willpower. Good luck in your studies!

Lead Image Credit: Unsplash

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Lauren Reamy - George Mason University

Lauren Reamy is a sophomore at George Mason University, majoring in Vocal Performance. Besides singing, she loves musical theatre, hanging out with her pets, and reading way too many books.

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