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Thread: Struggling in math

  1. #1
    Oct 2011

    Struggling in math

    Hi there

    You don't have to read it all, I don't blame you. I'm from Iceland so my sentence structure might seem a bit off, I apologize in advance.

    Math has been the only "difficult" subject for the last 2 years (I'm 16 so I'm talking about 9th and 10th grade). My average grade for every other subject has always been 9-9,5 while math has been 7-8 at most.

    I get nervous in math classes, especially because my teacher calls out a random name about 5 times each class and asks you to solve a problem in front of the whole class and every time he calls my name I get nervous and my hands shaking and my heart starts pumping really fast.

    I don't know what the next school stage is called in English, I think it's highschool but I'm not sure. Anyway, I got accepted to the oldest and most respected school here in Iceland and it has a reputation for having really hard math and I thought I could manage if I worked hard and well. I got 3,2 on my first test and it surprised me(note: I got 9,5 on my English test the same day), I thought I was doing ok so far but apparently not. For the next two weeks I was struggling in algebra, but the answers to the problems were in the back of the book so I attempted to solve a problem, almost always I got it wrong, and when I got the answer wrong I just looked at the answer in the back of the book and thought about it untill I understood what I did wrong.

    So when the next test came I studied at home untill I thought I had the hang of it. During the test I saw problems I knew I could solve, and I felt good at the end of the test and didn't worry about it since I thought I hadn't done too bad. I was wrong, I got 0,8 on that test and I couldn't believe it. I came home, a little bit depressed, I managed to convince my mom I was sick so I didn't go to school the next day. I know I need to work hard, and that's what I have been doing since I started in this school. All the other subjects are a piece of cake compared to math for me.

    I love math when I understand what I'm doing, it's the most rewarding subject in school.

    If you read it all, thank you. My question is: What can I do to improve in math?
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  2. #2
    Super Member Quacky's Avatar
    Nov 2009
    Windsor, South-East England

    Re: Struggling in math

    Honestly, math is an uphill struggle for some and a breeze for others. Don't blame yourself - you might just not be a natural in this department. When you get the answers wrong constantly, then you need to stop practicing the questions. Take a short break (5-10 mins, calm yourself and focus), and then reread the example material or talk through the problems with your teachers. If you're struggling with questions, don't keep trying them. You need to work out:

    -What you can do.
    -What you can sometimes do.
    -What you are unable to do. Work out where the basic problems have arisen, and nip them in the bud. Get your teachers to go over bits with you in their lunch hour - it's their job; they're paid to do that.

    If you can get 75% of the questions right, then ask a few here on MHF and we'll see what we can do. Don't try and tackle too much content at once, also. Take it in bitesized chunks.

    Never be afraid to ask your peers for help. Often, students can convey the material better than teachers because teachers have a tendency to overcomplicate things or to explain things in ways which are very accurate and precise and very confusing. You could arrange for a study group or something, although I think that's unlikely to succeed (and it's tacky!).

    Otherwise, it really is just about persistence. Get sleep, stay hydrated, and don't be disheartened.

    Edit: I forgot to say, for my applied course, I had a teacher that did the whole '5 spur-of-the-moment questions' thing - what a terrible teaching style! I don't know why it's favoured. It just puts people in a panic and disheartens them, making them more likely to slip up. I hate it with a vivid passion. The way to deal with it, I found, was to pretend to take notes while the teacher is looking for someone to ask - it doesn't always work, but it will help!
    Last edited by Quacky; Oct 2nd 2011 at 07:47 PM.
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  3. #3
    Sep 2009

    Re: Struggling in math

    Hey fellow Icelander, I just wanted to point out the possibility of getting a tutor. You can email stigull (local university math students, nemendafélag stærð- og eðlisfræðinema við háskóla íslands,) that is stigull at hi dot is. They can find someone to tutor you if you want.

    Mabey getting a tutor is not for you, then so be it.

    Another thing: You should probarbly try to find yourself a study partner, it helped me tremendously to study with someone else.
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  4. #4
    MHF Contributor Siron's Avatar
    Jul 2011

    Re: Struggling in math

    Exercicing is very important to understand math (and not only math). First of all if you're trying to solve a question don't take a look at the solution (behind the book) first. I know it's tempting but the problem with doing that is that you're going to work up to the solution without fully understanding what you're doing (in most cases). If you're trying to solve an exercice first analyze the problem, see what you know and what you have to solve and don't panic if you don't see a solution directly. If you don't get the solution (or if you're stuck) after much times I advise you to ask someone else to take a look at it or post it on this forum to see what's going wrong etc ... . But I don't think that if two of your math tests are bad that you don't understand it at all, maybe you're to worried about the fact that you're not going to pass the test and maybe that's the reason you're not thinking very clear. Like I said, to understand the theory you have to make a lot of exercices. Not only the exercices (or similar ones) you have done during the lessons but also try some other (more difficult) exercices so you get comprehension of the theory.
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