January means that final exam season is here, and FCAT, ITBS, and ACT/SAT are just around the corner…it’s time to bust some math exam studying myths! Read on to learn the RIGHT methods to use when getting ready – or when helping your child get ready – for these all-important tests.
Math Myth # 1: All I have to do to get ready for my final is memorize formulas.
While there certainly are formulas that math students need to know, math is a matter of problem solving. Students who are most challenged by math have not developed the reasoning or understanding that they need to find the solution path. Every math student should ask these questions when reading a problem: (1) What is given? (2) What do I need to find? (3) How do I break this into parts? (4) What should I do first?
Math Myth # 2: I’ll be ok if I review a few problems in the chapter and get them right.
Re-doing some homework problems in the chapter helps to review the section covered, but it is not the most effective way to study. Top math students will work out every single problem in each section and ask for help from their teacher for any problem they cannot solve.
Math Myth # 3: Even though I didn’t fully understand the previous section, if I can correctly solve the problems in the next section, I don’t need to worry.
This common misconception causes students to “crash and burn” when they take tests – especially final exams. Unlike other subjects, math knowledge is cumulative. Sections not understood create gaps in the student’s math foundation. These gaps may not manifest until later, when another concept is introduced that builds on the previous concept. Over time, these gaps will lead to problems keeping up in class.
Math Myth # 4: I only need to know one way to solve a math problem.
A student who only knows one way to come up with a solution will run into trouble when the teacher changes or reverses the question. For example, if the question is, “What is half of 12?” the reverse would be, “Half of what number is 6?” Answering “reverse questions” requires an experience-base that includes practice. The concept also applies to a student memorizing a formula in algebra.
Math Myth # 5: Checking my results is a waste of time.
Many math mistakes are caused by human error, not lack of understanding. It is important to work each problem carefully to minimize errors, and it never hurts to recheck calculations. Careless mistakes often occur when the calculations become so mechanical that the student’s mind begins to wander. A basic arithmetic operation or sign error may lead to an incorrect answer. Organizing work in a step-by-step sequence helps a student trace back to find mistakes.
For more information about how you can help your student get ahead and stay ahead in mathematics, contact Mathnasium of St. Petersburg. We are located at 3451 4th Street North in St Petersburg, just south of the 38th Ave intersection. The Mathnasium Method® has been helping students succeed for over 35 years. Call 727-823-6284 today to schedule your student’s risk-free math skills analysis.