In the third part of our Successful Student series, Mr. Pranav Gupta writes about how to be a successful math student. Pranav is the Director of Subject Prep and High School Admissions Test Prep. He is a favorite among our students!
5 Traits of Highly Successful Math Students
Mathematical literacy is not only at the heart of analytical thinking and logical reasoning, but also a key requirement for almost every discipline in today’s increasingly digital and analytical world. Mathematics is not just a purely objective process of solving a question, but rather a way of reasoning quantities and relationship interact with each other. Each one of us can become better at mathematics with effort and practice.
Here are five habits to build to be a highly successful math student!
Develop your Number Sense Skills
At the core of any mathematical problem solving is the ability to effectively calculate. What makes effective calculation possible is number sense: the understanding of numbers, their relationships, and their implications following operations.
Improving in this area is an endless journey, but successful math students continue to find ways to prioritize simplification and manipulation over direct calculation. Simplification, manipulation, and application are what make math more than numbers, but rather an investigation or puzzle.
You can read here about how our math curriculum helps students build key math skills and confidence.
One of the most underrated traits to be successful at math is organization. I don’t just mean having the prettiest hand writing, but being organized in planning and execution.
As you begin a math problem, what is your routine? Do you improvise as you go or do you organize your ingredients and follow a recipe? As you solve a math question, you should always summarize, setup, calculate, and interpret. As you carry through your organized planning, write out your steps neatly and in an organized way.
What are your “givens”?
What is your end goal?
What operations, formulas, or equations is the question asking you to use?
The combination of organized planning and execution is a key trait that successful math students share.
Practice a lot
Mathematics has come a long way. At this point, we are building from the mountains of knowledge contributed by many people over the course of earth’s history. But how much of the knowledge we learn do we really understand?
Highly successful math students put in a lot of practice to build a very strong foundation of concepts and make that foundation truly theirs. They move on to the next level. And repeat. Conceptual understanding is not enough. You must put in a lot of practice to master a concept’s application.
Only once a concept is practiced enough can you use it in any application. Work toward being an expert in each concept that you learn.
Don’t learn HOW to solve questions, but ask WHY?
The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Great, that makes sense. But WHY? (The proof of this fact is almost 2 pages long. Look it up.)
Highly successful math students are never satisfied with JUST the steps needed to solve a particular question type. They always chase the deeper insights and reasons that justifies each step or an overall concept. The wealth of mathematical knowledge that we have is culminated into some of the most simple statements that we now take for granted. So most things are logically derived from something. Chase the derivation, and you will be able to use the concept in any situation.
The ability to translate and apply a mathematical concept to real life situations is a very strong indication that you understand a concept very deeply! Read this blog of math quotes to learn how to effectively approach math.
The process of solving the question is a journey in itself. It is natural and common for us all to get stuck or hit a dead end as we navigate through our plan to solve a question. I have seen many students abandon their approach entirely and start from scratch when they come across these dead ends.
Highly successful math students do not abandon their work! They backtrack until they find a new avenue.
Why go back to the beginning when you you’ve made so much progress?
What if you can use this progress and just point it in a different direction?
It’s this free thinking and flexibility in problem solving approach that is integral in achieving high level problem solving skills.
A large part of being a successful math student is redeveloping your mindset to think in a different wavelength. Math can often be unapproachable for students who do not have this innate mindset. However, this mindset is something that can be developed, with lots of practice and guidance.
Feeling lost, or just want a little individualized guidance? Our expert academic counselors are ready to help you find your direction. Contact us today to speak with our counselors and start your path to academic success!
For 4-8 graders, our MLC courses are also specially designed to not only build concept mastery, but also ensure that students build the mindset and skillset that they need for high achievement in the classroom. MEK’s AP Course programs and High School Honors programs help high schoolers ace tough courses under the guidance of expert teachers and tutors.
See you soon!