Frequently at AJ Tutoring, students come in who express a familiarity with key math concepts but don’t score as well as they’d imagined on quizzes and tests. A common source of missed questions is inaccuracy. It can be frustrating because such errors happen even if you have mastered the material and know the problem-solving techniques. Our math tutors excel at helping students minimize missed questions. Click here to learn more about math tutoring at AJ, and read on for some tips to increase accuracy in math.
1. Stop Calling Your Mistakes “Stupid”
It is completely predictable that as a human you are going to make mistakes, and it under no circumstances makes you stupid or silly or lazy. The first step is to retrain your mind to see these mistakes for what they are: Accuracy Errors. By changing your mindset and accepting that you will inevitably make these mistakes, you enable yourself to plan for and thus correct any that do occur.
2. Make a List
As we discussed above, accuracy errors are predictable, and the cool thing is you probably have a set that you are most susceptible to. So, whenever you get an assignment back, don’t just say to yourself, “Darn, I made 5 silly mistakes!” Instead, classify them: Did you forget to distribute or drop a negative sign? Did you answer the wrong question? Did you do 3+2=6? Did you not write your units? By categorizing your errors, you make it easier to check for them during an assignment or exam. Instead of chanting “Don’t make any accuracy errors” to yourself, you can quickly run through your list of common errors and feel confident in moving on to the next question.
3. Read the Question
I know it seems simple, but there are a lot of predictable ways this can go wrong. If you feel overly confident with a familiar question type, you might rush through the prompt and miss an important tweak your teacher made. If you feel uncomfortable with a question or its length, you might let the question intimidate you and turn what was actually a simple problem into a nightmare. So, read all the words, annotate as you see fit and if necessary break the question into chunks and read those separately until you feel you have a handle on the entire question.
4. Underline, circle or highlight what is being asked of you
The key here is that at the end of the problem you can quickly check if you have actually answered the question. This way we can avoid that gut-wrenching feeling when you get your test back, start to look over a problem you missed and realized you gave the answer for X when your teacher asked for Y.
5. Write out your work
I mean all of it! Even if you are typically able to perform accurate computations in your head, by not writing down your work you rob yourself of the opportunity to catch and correct accuracy errors. At the same time, make what you are writing out count. If you can’t read your work, or it becomes hard to work accurately because the work is not well organized, we have the same problem as not writing it out.
6. Write out your units
Units get a bad rap as teachers’ favorite way to shave off points on a student’s test, but they are actually a really handy tool to see if you have completed the problem correctly. If your units don’t work out, it’s a quick red flag that you should check your work. At the same time, by determining what the units of the answer should be ahead of time you can often devise a road map of how to solve the question.