Truth be told, not everyone is cut out to be Einstein-genius, well at least not at first. And it can be pretty frustrating when you’re unable to solve a math question despite having been reflecting on the same question for hours. But, the euphoria derived from solving a complex mathematical equation can be worth all the fuss!
So, if you find yourself having a tough time with your maths and science subjects, follow these tips to help increase your understanding before you plunge straight into getting the right answers.
#1. Know the basics
One way to be good at challenging subjects such as maths and physics is by knowing all the fundamental formulas and theories by heart through memorising, but of course, do not do this at the expense of your understanding. This means that you should know what the “E”, “m” and “c” stand for in the formula E = mc2 in physics and know when to use m = (y2-y1) / (x2-x1) when working on math problems.
By mastering these basic formulas and understanding when to apply them, you’ll be able to determine the most suitable method to solve an equation or problem easily once you’ve determined all the variables. You’ll also save precious time during your examinations as you don’t have to constantly refer to the formula sheet when answering questions.
#2. Learn the logic and process involved
Have you ever wondered if you’ll ever require the use of algebra or if knowing that π (Pi) equals 3.14 will ever help you in life? As a matter of fact, you actually do use math and science quite often — not just for your practice books.
Let’s say you’re at the grocer and you have to get some snacks and drinks but you only have RM20 in your wallet. Your mission is to get as many items as you can that are within your budget. Guess what? You’re doing algebra! Aside from shopping, maths skills will also come in handy for activities like cooking, home decorating and so much more.
So, the next time you find it difficult to understand a math or science problem, try to relate it to everyday scenarios so that it makes more sense. Although the backstory of a formula isn’t always explained in detail (like how the quadratic formula is derived) or why the periodic table exists, the trick here is to ask your teacher or tutor either in class or personally. Once you understand a concept thoroughly, you’ll be able to tackle more in-depth questions.
#3. Simplify and sketch out the scene
Subjects like maths and physics are almost impossible to master if all you do is picture the solutions mentally when trying to figure out the answer. What more if you’re just beginning to grasp a new chapter or concept.
So before you proceed to tackle a math question, try to understand it first by replacing difficult words with simpler ones. Break down the sentences as much as you need to make sense of it. Once you fully understand it, write down all the values that were given to you and begin working on it using the formulas and step-by-step processes that you have already mastered.
If you’re studying a new concept or theory in science, sketch out a diagram of what you’re learning so that you’ll have a clearer idea of the concept and will be able to commit it to memory easily.
#4. Practice, practice, practice!
If you want to be good at anything, repetitive practice is the key.
As you may already know, maths isn’t a spectator sport, so only looking at maths videos and watching your teachers pointing out the method isn’t going to work. The more questions that you’re able to work on yourself, the better you’ll be and answering math questions will soon become a breeze.
This goes the same when answering scientific questions — you’ll never truly grasp a theory unless you tackle a question on your own until you get the right answer. So go ahead and get out those practice workbooks you need to sharpen up your skills or visit interactive sites with quizzes or games that’ll help you test your knowledge.
#5. Review incorrect answers
“It’s not how we make the mistakes, rather how we correct the mistakes, in the end, that counts.”
Once you’re done with your practice, don’t just put a big X on the wrong answers and move on to the next practice workbook. For mathematics, you are required to list out each step as you progress to obtain the answer. As such, you should review your errors to detect and understand where you went wrong and try to avoid the same mistakes.
Yes, looking at your mistakes can be agonising, but if you’re aiming for a better grade, it’s time to push your ego aside and start working hard for it. Once you know where you went wrong, keep practising the same type of questions until you get the answer right a few times in a row.
Another effective way to save yourself from making mistakes is to approach your teachers and find out what are some of the common mistakes students make so that you can try and avoid them from the beginning. This way, you’ll also be more prepared when working on questions in your practice workbook.
#6. Tackle the question much later
If you’ve been staring back and forth at the same math or science question for two hours and still haven’t quite figured out how to solve the tricky problem, taking a short break can help.
Instead of getting the solutions from your smart friend or your teachers, try solving the question the next day with a fresh pair of eyes. Perhaps you were too tired or sleepy to figure it out at the time. But, if you still can’t figure it out, don’t ignore it and move on to another question. Always make sure you know how to answer it so that you won’t be rushing to learn everything weeks before your exam.
Of course, if you’re in the exam hall, and are clueless about how to answer, then you should come back to it once you’ve tackled the rest of the other questions. You may even get inspiration from the following questions and figure it out then!
Remember that there’s nothing you can’t achieve if you pour your heart and soul into it. Push the “I’m not a math or science person” mentality aside and start working on your skills! You’ll be impressed by what you can achieve.