Deciphering Numbers and Maths Short-cuts
Studying for a maths exam or just wanting to recall maths formulas or information that contains a large amount of numbers can seem intimidating, but it does not have to be if you employ a few learning short-cuts and focus on some specific techniques that put the power of your built-in mental capacity.
First things first – do not panic! You will be able to master numbers, figures, and formulas in no time at all. Let's start with some simple exercises:
- The first step is to write down the formulas that you want to memorise and use for your exam. Write them a few times as the process of writing them down will help cement them at least in your short-term memory.
- Close your eyes and try to repeat the formulas out loud to see if this process has helped your recall ability.
- Continue to hone in on ways to store the formulas deeper inside your memory banks by creating a mental picture of the formula. Since many formulas have a distinctive look to them, it is not too challenging to then create a mental picture.
- Reinforce each formula by undertaking many practice problems with each formula. An application step such as this always helps to reinforce it and push it deeper into your memory. There are often practice problems online or in available workbooks.
- Be sure to separate the formulas into groups where there are similarities and reproduce these groups in your head like a mental filing system.
There are other specific tips to employ when it comes to numbers, figures, and formulas:
- The substitution strategy works well as a learning device for maths particularly when it comes to formulas and calculations where part of the equation is still unclear to you or it is not sinking into your memory. Put something into the equation in place of that unknown so that you can use that known to help you recall that part you do not understand but do have to memorise. This could apply to the function or meaning of variables within the formula, or it might be useful for any type of word problems that your maths exam will have as part of what you need to know.
- You will most likely also have to remember terms and definitions, so focus on the keywords in each definition and take out any unnecessary words to speed the information recall.
In addition, consider these memory devices for your maths revising and exam:
- Use association where you associate the term with specific keywords, using phonetic associations, prior knowledge associations, and/or visual associations. This works well with maths equations and rules.
- Try flash cards for committing the terms, definitions, symbols or formulas to memory. This can test your recall level.
- Create concept lists by writing terms, formulas, symbols and other key information in one column of a paper while you put definitions, answers, and applications in the other column.
- Use characterisation for memorising symbols by drawing or visualising them as characters.
The last areas of maths that needs to be learned and recalled is that of problem solutions in which you must know the right order of steps that are needed to solve maths problems. You can use the following tactics:
- Rehearsal and practice help commit the right order to your long-term memory because you are replicating the steps over and over as part of practice problems.
- By solving them forwards and backwards, you are reinforcing each step in your mind.
- Procedure flash cards are another way to reinforce the order in your mind.
- Including someone else by teaching them or reviewing it with them will also help your brain recall it quickly and effectively.
- Keywords and associations are also vital tools that help you successfully remember the problems solutions.
Lastly, there are some general maths study tips that will help you create the right environment for revising and for committing the key information to memory:
- Study in segments of time, such as 15-20 minute blocks and then step away. The chunks of study give your brain the time it needs to ruminate over the numbers and formulas and then let it focus on something else so that it does not create mental exhaustion.
- Consult the Internet for practice problems and maths tutorials to reinforce the concepts.
- Set realistic study goals related to maths so you do not become overwhelmed.
- Verbally engage with others and participate in maths study groups. This is a subject area that can be beneficial to do as a group rather than on your own. Verbalising it can also help reinforce and commit the formulas and problem solutions to your memory.
- Structure studying tactics around your learning style, whether that is kinaesthetic, visual, or auditory. So, depending on what you are most akin to when it comes to learning, you will either write the maths formulas out, look at them, or listen to them. Maybe, you will even benefit from a combination.
- Review and repeat. Getting maths down takes time and lots of practice, repetition, and review. In the end, this will produce extraordinary results.
Just like maths, other technical topics can be a tricky area to revise for when it comes to exam time. Next up is the ability not to be blinded by science or utterly confounded by ICT.