The way you can improve your Math skills
How to understand Math
In primary school, my math teachers always told me that I have no ”sense“ of math.
In high school my math teachers literally give up on me, saying that I have no “abilities” to learn math.
Outside of school, my older relatives discouraged me from learning Computer Science because I have no “talent” in math.
Could it have really happened that all my teachers and my older relatives were wrong about my talent in math?
Yes, it could, and It happened.
There is no such thing as talent
I was really bad in math all in my school years. But I didn’t really enjoy it, the way they taught it, and the fact that they always told me that I can’t get better, discouraged me from learning math.
Now I know, there is nothing like talent. Anyone who is good at something can easily tell you that they have worked hard for their knowledge, there are no people who are just born with talent. Maybe this in itself could be the basis for another article.
Math can be hard I don’t doubt it, but it’s definitely learnable, and on advanced levels it’s enjoyable.
The problem with math education
The way they teach it in primary school differs in the way they teach it later in high school, what’s worse than math education will be even more different in college.
In primary school, the teachers generally think that students know nothing (which is usually the case) about math. So they teach accordingly, the first introduction to math is that you learn to count with your fingers, then you count everyday objects like apples and other things, addition and subtraction of counted values, then division and multiplication, introduction to numbers, and so on.
Suddenly there is an exam with numbers, as you were taught first you start to solve the tasks by counting on your fingers. You find out that this technique is too slow, so you tip some solutions. This is the point where Miss Fortuna comes in and classifies half the class as “good in math” and the other half as “bad in math”. From now on “bad in math” students will get loads of F and some D grades in their grade book, which is nearly good enough to survive till the end of primary school.
Also doesn’t forget that the „bad in math” could learn and prepare as hard as it’s possible, but they will only get a maximum of C grade and a “good job” phrase.
The “good in math” students will never have to struggle in math again as their teacher will always going to assume that they are tired or sick when they don’t know something, so they will get a lot of As and Bs.
New school new life. Math education here usually start with sets, with the things that are so fundamental in math that everyone should start with them and you heard about those things first in high school (let’s be honest, It was taught but that doesn’t mean It was learned), so Miss Fortuna comes in again and classifies the class again, although you have a better chance to prepare for the first exam, you don’t really have energy or time for math since you also need to be good at:
- Some foreign language
- … and many more
So you eventually get into the “bad in math” class again, teachers don’t believe in you, your parents blame the teachers, and you think you know nothing. Perfect, welcome to the education of 2020s. We are thinking about colonizing other planets but still, our education system is wrong from Its roots.
Hopefully, people who don’t know math don’t get into courses like Computer Science, Economics, or Engineering. They will try to get in, as the always benign people in life/on the internet told them that “you can do math„, “you have to work hard but you can do it„, even better if they say “math is easy on this course„. Some who decide to apply and get in, later will drop out and live their life without their desired degree, because their whole math education was a complete disaster. From primary school to college all the way up.
The students who don’t want to learn math
They do fine until they find out that they desire a higher salary, and that requires a field that is based on math (not in all cases of course).
The steps for improvement
Here are the steps you can do in order to get be better and understand math. Eventually, this will make you realize that the whole math education you got was no repeat.
You have power over your mind — not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.
0. Accept it
Accept that you are bad right now and that you can change it. What’s more, you should accept that you need to start from zero. On zero I mean literary zero, like numbers, sets, operators, and so on. This might be kind of hard to accept at first, but trust me, for a person who came out of school-driven math education (you), the most important thing would be to introduce you to the scientific face of math.
Why the scientific face? You can ask.
Well, the answer is simple: The is no other face of math.
Think about it, higher-level math relies on lower-level math since math as knowledge is layered, so everything relies on the plain basics like sets, numbers, operators, and so on.
Thus it’s important to have really good basics, and you can build on it later.
1. Sources of learning
When I started learning math I had no other option in my mind just to go and get a good book. I have always learned from books with a kind of success. You need a book that covers all the high school math topics, including:
- Set theory
- Number theory
All these in one book, why? Because these kinds of books are really general and abstract. They explain the definition of a number like for a scientist not for a student. This way you will understand every possible corner of these basics.
Here are the Top 5 books to learn & understand math from the basics you can use.
2. Setup a goal
Reading a math textbook can be hard.
You need to set up a goal for daily practice and reading from your first math book.
When I learned math said myself:
15 pages or more, but read at least 15 pages every day.
It is hard, I know. But what was the reason you started learning in the first place? Will you give that goal up just because something is hard?
3. Do every task in the book
Solve every task in the book without exception.
If you really don't understand how to solve the task, then read that chapter again, with more concentration and thinking. If there are no practice problems in the book you are reading, then it is recommended to take a look at this site, or just to google some practice problems (yes, google is good for learning) like: “trig practice problems” the second result is really good.
4. Practice, practice, practice
Learning math is about practicing different problems, if the problem is too easy for you, then you are not learning, you are repeating. If you want to learn, find problems that require you to think and go after them.
Remember, once you learned something, that doesn’t mean it is learned forever, you can forget skills that you don’t use anymore. This is the same with math, math is a skill, you need to practice a given area which you want to be good at. To never forget a thing from that area, you need to use it, you need to practice it.
Once you are in the flow of learning, it will be much easier to remain still and don’t lose motivation for learning. Just remember your goal, if you want to learn math, you must be persistent. Never let a problem decide you to stop learning. That problem is just a test, it can either stop you from learning, or it can make you better at math.
Have fun while learning math! Thank you for reading.
Author: Martin Kondor