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Setting Gears in Motion: Math

Math can be a difficult subject to master. Some people really struggle in their math and science classes while excelling in their humanities courses like English and History. This is likely due to the fact that math requires strong reasoning skills. If you possess these reasoning skills you are probably left-brained as opposed to right-brained which focuses on creativity.

For example, I am a strong right-brainer. My logic and reasoning skills fall short compared to my creative skills. I therefore have to work much harder at mastering mathematical content. This often lead to anxiety. If you’re like me, there are some key practices you can employ to develop logic and reasoning strategies.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book entitled Outliers which presented the argument that in order to master a skill, you must have 10,000 hours of practice. This may seem like a lot, but over a lifetime it isn’t so daunting. He emphasized the importance of practice. Practicing your craft is a huge step towards mastering it.

In math, practicing solving equations, working through word problems, and comprehending graphs greatly impacts your scores or grades. Practice is necessary to become good at anything. Take professional athletes as an example. They make loads of money practicing their craft. In their free time, they don’t lounge around or go on vacation – they drill, drill, drill. If you do the same thing with math, the mastery will follow.

Understand Your Errors

Like all things in life, it isn’t helpful to simply know you are wrong. You must understand why you are wrong to correct the behavior. It’s the same thing in math. If you make an error or mistake, you must understand why the mistake was made. You can then make necessary steps to change your thinking and correct the error to avoid making it again.

If you are making mistakes on your homework or course work, try taking a step back and understanding the concept. Once you have a full grasp of the concept, you can then break it down and learn how to solve the problem accurately.

Master, Then Move On

Some things come naturally to us. As babies, we naturally learn to crawl, then stand, then walk, then run. As adults, some of us have natural rhythm and dancing comes easy. This is like math as well. For some individuals, math concepts come easily and they can master them quickly and continue their way up the ladder into more challenging content. For most people, this simply is not the case.

It is important in math that you master concepts before moving on. Math skills build off of one another and become more challenging as you work. When you learn a new concept, practice it to mastery before moving on to harder problems. Failing to learn a skill before developing that skill further can lead to confusion and stress. Especially as you make your way into trigonometry and calculus. Start with a foundation, then build your walls, then top it off with a ceiling. You will be glad you did.