Math Skills: Study Techniques and Motivation Tips

One of the most difficult tasks that any parent can be faced with is how to help their child learn how to study.  Many students feel that studying simply involves looking back over the chapter or the notes the night before a test.  When this does not work for them, they feel frustrated and poorly motivated to continue to strive for excellence in these classes.  The next time a test is given, they may repeat the process only to have the same results.  But, as the old cliché goes, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the textbook definition of insanity.  Children should not be told to study harder; they need to be taught to study smarter.

One of the first things that a student should asses is how they learn best.  Everyone simply assumes that all students learn the same.  This is not true.  Research over the last twenty years has brought forth the concept of multiple intelligences which can help a child pinpoint how they learn best so they can help study smarter.  Many teachers are already adjusting lessons to accommodate these different learning modalities, but if your child's teacher isn't, you can still assist them by finding an online learning style test.  If a child is a visual learner, then reviewing written notes may be the best way to study.  However, an auditory learner may do better through listening.  In this case, ask the teacher if your child can audio record the lessons so that he or she can listen to them later as a means of review.

Another basic study technique is to find the setting which works best for your child to study.  Most conscientious parents have always insisted on studying at a table or desk in a quiet room with no distractions.  This works well for many children, but others find that they cannot focus without a form of "white noise" in the background to help them.  Instead of letting him or her try to study in front of the television set, have your child work at the kitchen table with some non-intrusive instrumental music playing.  Also, help them find what time works best for them.  Some do well right after school while others need to come home and take a break to relax before jumping back into the books.  Work with your child to establish a studying regiment that will help them to succeed and feel motivated to learn.

Specific to mathematics is the understanding that it is not like other subjects.  Whereas a student can review language arts or history by reviewing notes or chapters in a textbook, mathematics is best studied by completing practice problems and working on skills.  This means repetition, which students often aren't very happy with.  It also means that if they work the problem wrong, they will be reinforcing incorrect solutions which will carry over into the test.  (This is further coupled with the fact that many parents feel woefully unqualified to help their children check their math homework, particularly in advanced math classes in high school such as algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus.) The best way to combat this is to not wait until the night before a test to study.  Work on the skills a little along to ensure that you are getting the proper exposure to them.  Most high school textbooks also have the answers (but not the work to achieve the answers) in the back of the book.  If your child cannot come up with the correct answer on a problem, have him or her take the problem in the next day and get help either from a teacher or a peer tutor.  This proactive involvement will instill in your child the idea that they must take responsibility for their own education as well as help to ensure that they are getting the assistance that they need well before the night prior to the test.

These are just a few basic ideas that can be used to help your child achieve success in school.  More time spent in front of a book will not equal higher grades.  Instead, the quality of the studying has to be improved for the child's academic success to improve.