Home Education How to Get Better at Math: 9 Tips for College Students

How to Get Better at Math: 9 Tips for College Students

by Paul Petersen

Are you trying to figure out how to get better at math?

In college, mathematics can open the doors to lots of great things. Higher-level classes, entrance into difficult majors, and even getting accepted into grad school are all plausible outcomes. That’s why it’s so important to do well, even in your basic algebra courses.

However, math isn’t easy for some people. In fact, recent surveys show that the way math is taught in elementary and high school could be setting lots of college kids up for failure.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to improve your skills. Here’s are 9 tips you can use to be a better math student.

  1. Always Attend Class

Attending class is key to getting better at math. Whether your classes are in person or online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this is time you can’t get back. Class sessions are generally when your professor will go over new concepts and outline what will be on the exam.

If you struggle with math, it can be all too tempting to skip. But if you make that a habit, you’ll only fall behind faster. Fight the urge to miss class and be there each day that you can.

  1. Study in Small Increments Each Day

Outside of class, set aside 20 to 45 minutes each day to work on your homework or study additional problems. If possible, set aside a long block on the days you have in-person meetings. This is a good chance to review key concepts from class and get them ingrained in your head.

Studies show that small amounts of daily study are the key to learning and retaining information. It’s certainly a much more effective strategy than cramming for six hours the night before the test!

  1. Focus on the Concept

When you get stuck, don’t fret over the specific problem or group of equations. Instead, turn to your textbook or another resource to focus on the concept in front of you. 

Students are more likely to solve problems when they understand what they’re doing. And the beauty of math is that once you internalize the concept, you have it for future problems. Keep drilling and don’t give up until you get it.

  1. Memorize Key Formulas

Along similar lines, learning key formulas that will be on tests or homework is a good idea. In fact, it’s best to memorize these formulas so you don’t have to rely on notes. Some professors offer reference sheets, but if you don’t have that, you might be in trouble come exam time.

Memorize algebra formulas and things like how to divide a number into a ratio. With repetition, things will fall into place.

  1. Work Through the Practice Problems

As the old saying goes, practice makes perfect. To be a better math student, you should work through the practice problems in your book.

The majority of math textbooks offer additional problems. Even working on an extra 3 to 5 problems on top of your homework can help you improve math skills. Try to make it a challenge or offer yourself a reward, such as getting a coffee, each time you complete the extra work.

  1. Ask for Assistance

Asking questions in class is helpful, but if you need one-on-one help, don’t be afraid to ask for it.

Look at your syllabus and find out when your professor has office hours. Schedule a meeting, preferably well in advance of the exam or assignment you’re struggling with. This shows that you thought ahead—and there’s a good chance professor will be more likely to cut you some slack since you’re being proactive.

  1. Seek Out Other College Resources

Almost every college has an academic success center. There are also additional groups you can look for that might help you get through your math classes. Email your academic advisor or check your college’s website to see what they can offer.

  1. Organize a Study Group

Want to know how to get better at math easily? Form a study group, preferably with people who are better at math than you are!

Besides being a good way to socialize (you can do this over Zoom to socially distance), you might find that a peer can break down concepts or formulas for you better than your teacher. Ask other students in your class or make a post on your college’s online resources to see if anyone else is interested.

  1. Don’t Move on Until You Understand

As a habit, stick with the things you struggle with until you understand them. That little voice in the back of your head that just tells you to move on come back to it isn’t doing you any good. Each time you listen to it, you risk missing out on a key concept that you may need later.

This, like some of the other tips on the list, isn’t always easy. It’s important to reward your hard work and create incentives to help you stay on track. Think of something you might like to “earn” (it can be little) to give you a reason not to move on.

Now You Know How To Get Better At Math

Many college students want to know how to get better at math. There are many math tips out there, but we recommend a few pretty simple strategies.

You can break the 9 tips we went over down to a few basic principles. Don’t take shortcuts and persevere even when it’s difficult. Surround yourself with people who are good at math. And take advantage of any resources that could make learning math easier for you.

Remember, you’re not alone here. So take the steps you need to get help and don’t be embarrassed if you’re struggling!

For more college tips and student advice, check out our blog!