7 Real "How to Succeed in Math" Tips

Jun 5, 2019 | Barrie South

7 Real “How to Succeed in Math” Tips

Success In Math

I bought a handful of math texts at Half Price Books this weekend. I opened up a Basic Mathematics text and the first thing that caught my eye was the intro titled “To the Student: Success in Mathematics.”

“Really?” thought I. As I read it, I grew more and more agitated.

Have these folks spent any time inside a math classroom? Did they pay attention to the students? If so, they should know that the likelihood of a student to do what they suggested is downright ridiculous. So why do we tell students to do it? Why can’t we give them tips that they can and will do? Like these:

1. If you feel comfortable asking questions in class, do it. If not, write your questions down to ask later. You don’t have to ask the instructor, especially if he or she is intimidating. Find a tutor or go to the school’s math lab instead. You don’t have to work with someone you’re uncomfortable with.

2. Read the stuff inside the gray boxes. We know it’s likely you’ll not read the text, but the things inside the gray boxes are really helpful.

3. Before you start on your homework assignment, do something physical or something you can do well. Run a mile, do a load of laundry or play tennis for a half hour. This will remind you of the things you are good at and get your endorphins flowing. It will help you be confident during your homework time.

4. Absorb the lectures, don’t copy them. If you can do it, try to just watch. See how the teacher thinks through a problem. You will gain more from this than from frantically trying to copy everything.

5. If you do take lecture notes, don’t dwell on notes that you can’t figure out. Many times you mis-copy or mis-write things the teacher wrote or said. If it doesn’t make sense, move on.

6. Tear out the back of this book (the part with all the answers) and burn it. It is important that you build your confidence. Checking your work with the magical back of the book just gives you a crutch. And don’t use a calculator to “check your work.” That’s just another crutch.

7. Do the first two problems in every section and subsection. If you can do those, do the last two. If you can do those too, continue to the next subsection. Math isn’t a spectator sport, but it isn’t an elliptical machine either. Do all the problems if you need the practice. And if you have it down, move on.


Give it a shot. Let the students know that what they want to do is okay to do. Let’s quit giving them the B.S. that’s been passed down to us over the last few decades. It’s time to go Math Book 2.0.



Crowder, Bon. “7 Real ‘How to Succeed in Math’ Tips.” MathFour, MathFour, 23 Dec. 2011, mathfour.com/general/7-real-how-to-succeed-in-math-tips.