It’s often said that Maths is all about practice. Sure. But how can you practise Maths if you don’t know how to do Maths? Here’s a three step process to build your Maths muscle and succeed in your next Maths exam
When going to my first Maths tutoring lesson with a learner, one of the first questions that I always ask is: “How do you study for Maths?” The response seems to be the same almost every time: “I just practice from exercises or from a past paper”.
Well, that’s all good and well but what if you are prepping for a mid-year or final exam? Chances are, you’ve probably forgotten what you did at the beginning of the year.
So I have a recipe that I always recommend to the students that I tutor Maths to. I call it the REP guide for Maths. If you follow this recipe, then it will improve your confidence and you’ll no longer feel like you need to RIP after those exams. The goal is to improve your understanding and better your results. So what exactly does REP stand for, you ask? Quite simply it’s Rules, Examples, Practice.
As I questioned earlier, how can you practice Maths if you don’t know how to do Maths? The way around this is to learn the rules. Now, it’s up to you how you do this but typically you have at least two options.
- You could learn the rules for a single section then move onto the next steps of the recipe, then repeat the cycle for each section
- You could learn the rules for all the sections then go onto the next steps
I get a little nervous with the latter, as it’s quite a lot to learn if you attempted to learn or revise all the rules at once, and since you haven’t done practice yet, you might struggle to remember the earlier rules revised when it comes to the next steps. But if it works for you then go for it.
Now that you have imprinted the rules of a section (or sections) into your brain, it’s time to see how those rules can be applied to different questions. This leads us into the next step of my recipe: examples.
This is where you’ll go to the section that you’ve just revised the rules on, and have a look at the examples that are given to you in text books. By doing this, you are able to see exactly how those rules are applied to various questions. I know that sometimes the examples don’t always cover some of the complex questions but the purpose of them is to build the foundation, and get to you to start thinking about the more complex questions.
There are of course a wide range of examples available to you – the internet is fantastic – so you aren’t limited to examples just from your text book. In fact, you might even find examples of those complex examples online, so there really is no excuse for not having decent examples to go through. You could even start in our growing Maths video tutorial library, in which there are hundreds of examples. They’re even available on YouTube.
Congratulations on getting to this last step of the recipe. The above really is necessary before you get to this step.
Up until now, you would’ve learnt the rules and seen how those rules are applied in different questions. Now, we are at the last step of the recipe, the part where you can take what you’ve learnt, and practice. Don’t neglect this step.
This is where you should consult your text book, go to the consolidation exercises, and practice what you have learnt. If the consolidation exercise is too challenging then go to earlier exercises to practice the basics, and work your way down. One of the best tools to find questions to practice from, are past papers.
Past papers allow you to see exactly how questions from different sections are tested. Essentially, practicing from past papers will get you ‘exam fit’. If you land on a question that you don’t know how to answer, then go back to step one, if you’ve forgotten the rules, or two, and try to find a similar example.
Thankfully now, there is another useful site on the internet – Disrupt Tutoring. It’s a platform that offers free, personalised, digital tutoring. So if you are struggling with a question and you can’t find the answer to it on Disrupt Tutoring’s website, or if you didn’t understand how the memo answered the question you can send it to them and they will respond with a personalised video – just for you.
Now go forth and flex your Maths muscle
Once you have followed the above recipe, you’ll be nice and ‘fit’ for your next Maths test or exam. So you really have no excuse to fail. In fact, follow the recipe and chances are you’ll improve your marks at your next test or exam. Remember, yes, Maths is about practice, but you still need to know the rules in order to do so. It’s kind of like learning to crawl before you can walk.
The Wits PhD candidate, published environmentalist and gentle giant is always keen for a good laugh with friends and has his hands full (most of the time) with a feisty fiance.
Passionate about conservation, Wade has invested five years to ensure the survival of the giant dragon lizard (aka the sungazer).