You would not be alone if understanding mathematics has caused you many frayed nerves and tears. When it comes to the study of mathematics it is quite common for many individuals to feel a high degree of anxiety and fear, especially around exam time.

Unfortunately, this can start at primary school and continue all the way through high school years. Students can find themselves suffering from a mental block over how to master maths. This stress and anxiety is made worse by the fact that it is well known that understanding mathematics is one of the more important parts of education.

Understanding mathematics not only enables students to solve real-life problems and understand the world around them, but it is often a requirement for a great many professional careers. If a student is able to figure out how to master maths to the extent of obtaining a good matric result it can really open up the options when it comes to tertiary education.

If you are wondering how to become good at math to the point where you can ditch those dreaded phobias for good, keep reading, this article is for you!

Overcoming A Fear of Maths

Most students, educators, and parents are aware of the importance of maths, not only within the school curriculum but for daily and professional life. Unfortunately, a fear of maths causes a mental block that inhibits the best way to study math: listen and pay attention in class. If students are unable to concentrate in class, it will create further anxiety and stress which of course is detrimental to anything including how to learn mathematics.

Here are five practical tips that will show you how to become good at math and ditch the anxiety that goes with it:

  • Invest in a private maths tutor. There is no doubt that a calm environment, away from a classroom situation, where your particular problem areas can be worked on at your own pace, will unblock key maths concepts. These lessons will also provide you with key tools for how to master maths problems in your future.
  • Using practical and relevant things around you is still the best way to study math. Thinking about maths in terms of everyday items, objects, pie charts can help eradicate fears and calm the brain.
  • When it comes to how to master maths, it’s important to know that you can’t avoid the difficult topics. Rather, face them head-on by putting in the extra effort with your maths tutor, extra reading, or even free YouTube tutorials.
  • Understanding mathematics can mean identifying mental blockages. A good teacher could understand the link between these difficulties and the student’s family environment, for instance.
  • When you are feeling stuck, return to the basics. Go over your multiplication, integers, decimals, basic geometry problems, theorems, circles, angles, circles, and every other fundamental required to study mathematics. Doing this will exercise your brain, build your logic, and probably unblock that mental barrier.

Don’t underestimate these tips if you really want to know how to learn mathematics!

Understanding a Student’s Maths Fears

maths exercise book, pencil and calculator
Don't worry if you make mistakes, it's part of the learning process. - Source: Pixabay

For parents, teachers, and students alike it’s important to know that there are definitely direct links between environmental and psychological influences and how to master maths. Sadly, experiences during early school years can certainly trigger a disinterest or blockage in a student’s willingness and commitment with regards to understanding mathematics. For example, in a classroom situation, teachers are often forced to go through the syllabus at a certain pace even before all the students have fully grasped a new concept.

Once this happens, the student’s maths foundations can become shaky, they feel lost and ultimately they can end up feeling that they will never know how to become good at math. To make it worse, one study has even shown that a student in this predicament can experience something like physical pain when it comes to how to learn mathematics.

Unfortunately, resulting in anxiety, shame, and panic can lead to a student’s total aversion to study mathematics. What’s more, this can lead to serious loss of self-esteem and other negative repercussions all of which can be resolved through tried and tested techniques to restore a student’s interest in how to become good at math.

Here are five important points to help reignite the excitement and creativity that should go with the study of mathematics:

  • Emphasise and praise the student’s good points.
  • Encourage all attempts.
  • Do not punish.
  • Listen carefully to the student’s causes of anxiety or panic.
  • Introduce games, puzzles, and quizzes to make maths fun.

On a positive note, research tells us that the brain has the capacity to either shrink or grow. In fact, it also is known that making mistakes in the process of understanding mathematics actually enables the brain to develop and even become smarter!

In another fascinating experiment by Jo Boaler, we also know that only two to three percent of humans actually experience genuine difficulties when it comes to understanding mathematics. For most of us our frustrations are actually a result of mental blocks, fear, and panic. However, if we really wanted to know how to master maths, we would take these negative feelings, knowing that making mistakes is ultimately how to become good at math and develop our brains!

Furthermore, Boaler established that pressure from time restraint diminishes the brain's ability to function properly! By removing time restrictions, students were shown to make great advances in all areas of maths. This further reiterates the advantages of being able to study mathematics at one’s own pace and focused on one’s own problems.

Learn Maths with a Private Tutor

If any of this resonates with you, consider removing the environmental pressure, stress, and anxiety of a classroom by finding a private maths tutor. It certainly seems that this is how to become good at math!

Finding a maths tutor is easier than you would think. In South Africa, you could even find one near you by using a tutoring website, like Superprof , which hosts tutors from nearly every corner of the country, simply search by location and you never know, there might even be someone in your neighbourhood which would be very convenient. If not, or if you prefer learning via Zoom, Skype, or Google Meet, it is likely that this option will be available to you too.

One of the bonuses about Superprof tutors is that past students are able to review them, which is quite helpful in making a decision. Also, many of these tutors are willing to offer their first lesson for free. This is a really valuable opportunity and the best way to use it, would be to clearly communicate exactly what your maths challenges and goals are. If you have the potential to be an A maths student, then make sure that your potential tutor knows that this is your goal.

And if you don’t feel like you connect with the tutor you try out, you could try someone else until you are satisfied that you are really on the same page when it comes to the language of maths and how to master it!

How to Learn Mathematics by Having Fun

person using silver smartphone apps
There are educational apps that can be used to make learning Maths more fun. - Source:Unsplash

If you have run out of ideas on how to master maths, consider introducing games that not only eliminate the pressure but are actually fun. Check out these websites that offer great problem-solving games for both kids and adults:

  • ICT Games
  • BBC Bitesize Maths Games
  • Mind Games
  • BBC Skillswise Maths Games for Adults
  • Topmarks
  • Primary Games Area
  • Math Playground

These are not the only digital resources worth mentioning. Another best way to study math is by using maths apps in the classroom. This is a great way to reduce the fear and anxiety a student can feel with regards to how to become good at math. Some of these include Edupad, iTooch, and Master Math.

Other excellent resources helpful for how to learn mathematics online include Cambridge University’s NRICH Maths as well as Funmaths, but why stop there – the world wide web is a plentiful resource in terms of supplementing your maths lessons in ways that are unintimidating and fun.

Maths for Adults: Relearn and Revise

Perhaps as an adult, you recognise that you were possibly not given the best chance when it came to how to learn mathematics, but it’s actually never too late to learn how to master maths (or anything else for that matter)!

When we study mathematics, it is like learning a new language.

If this foundational fluency, so to speak, was not gained, it will cause major problems in how to master maths at university level.

While some students prefer to self-teach using online resources or going through popular study guides, this is when a private maths tutor is highly recommended. Either way, here are some extra tips to consider when looking for the best way to study math:

So with this new attitude towards Maths, who knows what the future holds! Good luck.

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Niki is a content writer from Cape Town, South Africa, who is passionate about words, strategic communication and using words to help create and maintain brand personas. Niki has a PR and marketing background, but her happiest place is when she is bringing a story to life on a page.