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 math mistakes can 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 Tutoring, and read on for some tips to increase precision and accuracy in math.
1. Stop Calling Your Math 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 math mistakes for what they are: Accuracy Errors. By changing your mindset and accepting that you will make mistakes and that mistakes are opportunities to learn and grow, you set yourself up for success in Math.
2. Make a List of Math Mistakes
As we discussed above, precision and 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 math 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 math errors and feel confident in moving on to the next question.
3. Read Math Questions Carefully
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 math question or its length, you might let the question intimidate you and turn what was actually a simple math 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 you are asked to solve
The key here is that at the end of the math 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 math problem you missed and realize you gave the answer for X when your teacher asked for Y.
5. Writing out your work is a math problem-solving strategy
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 precision and accuracy errors. At the same time, you can improve math skills by making 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 math units
Units get a bad rap as teachers’ favorite way to shave off points on a student’s math test, but they are actually a really handy tool to see if you are problem-solving correctly. If your units don’t work out, it’s a quick red flag that you should check your work. You can easily improve your math skills and problem solving strategies by determining what the units of the answer should be ahead of time. Then, you can often devise a road map of how to solve the math question.