As a math tutor for 15 years, I have tutored hundreds of students from all the grade levels. I found most of the students were not comfortable with mathematics. More than 80% of them said, "the mathematics is very hard."
Why most of the students find mathematics a hard subject and try to avoid it?
The answer for the above question is hidden in a simple example. I always give the example of stairs to my students, and giving the same example in this article. I compare the steps of a staircase to the concepts in mathematics. As this is very hard to reach higher floors of a building without stairs (or elevators these days), same way learning higher concepts in mathematics without learning basic concepts is very hard.
People have to start from the ground, then first step, second, third and so on to reach their destination floor. Exactly the same way students have to start from kindergarten, then grade one, grade two and three and so on to reach their math destination. Also, if some of the steps are broken in the staircase, it is still hard to reach the desired floor using those steps. Same way, if you are missing some of the basic concepts from elementary grades, math for you is still hard.
Now, the kindergarten, first grade and second grade are like first couple of the steps of the stairs. You can learn this level of math easily, as you can jump enough to take yourself to second or third step of the stairs easily. As it is very hard to reach sixth or seventh step of the stairs by jumping from the ground, exactly the same way to learn grade five or higher grade math is very hard (or impossible) without having the good knowledge of elementary mathematics.
Now, consider one person is jumping on the ground to reach the third floor of a building. Can this person make it to the third floor this way? Never, if he is not Spiderman. For this person, to reach the third floor by jumping is impossible or very hard and finally he gives up saying that it is very hard to reach third floor.
Another person used the stairs to reach the same floor. This person finds it very easy and reach there with little effort. Compare this person to a student who knows all the basic concepts learned in elementary grades. To learn grade six or grade seven math for this student will be easy.
Consider there is another student in grade six and doesn't know the lower grade math concepts such as, times tables, factors and multiples. This student is in the same situation as the person, who is jumping to reach the third floor from the ground level.
From the above example, it is clear that mathematics in each grade have the same importance. So, you need to be focused on math in all grades and on all the basic concepts. Ask your teachers lots of questions. Keep asking until you are not clear about the concepts or topics you are working on.
Each grade acts as a step in the whole staircase to the mathematics high-rise building. Performing poor in math in any grade is like breaking some steps in the whole staircase. As broken steps make the whole staircase risky or scary to use in the future, incomplete math competencies in lower grades make math very hard in the high school.
So, what it takes to be smart in mathematics?
My answer is; stay focused on math in each and every level of your studies. Participate in your class math practice sessions. Ask your teacher lots of questions until you are not clear about any concept.
Mathematics is a subject of solving the problems on paper by hand rather than only to read them. As in case of Social Studies taking more readings make you smart, in math practicing lots of problems and solving them by hand makes you smart.
To practice mathematics, math workbooks are the good source. Workbooks teach and explain a certain concept, then in the same workbook there are more problems on the same concept for practice.
Another good method to practice mathematical concepts is using math worksheets and you can print math worksheets free of charge from the web. One good site to print free math worksheets is http://www.mathfriendly.com where free elementary math worksheets can be printed.
Finally, choice is yours. You can choose the jumping method to reach your math destination or you can use right and proven path to reach your math destination. The right and proven path to math destination has the following steps:
* Start learning math as soon as you start your kindergarten
* Focus in your math classes and listen to your teacher
* Ask your teacher lots of question until you are not clear about the concept, you are learning
* Practice, practice and practice. For this you can use math worksheets or math workbooks.
If you take the proven path, one day you might say, "Math is not hard."
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