Five tips to tackle math like an expert

I have been working as a mathematics teacher at a high school in the Netherlands for the past 5 years. I love my job and I also love math. What?! You love math??? That’s probably one of many thoughts that came across your mind as you read this. Yes, I love math and I will tell you why.

It is one of the few subjects that has been studied since the beginning of time, so a lot of what we know about math has not been new information. Math has been incorporated in our daily lives as well as nature itself. We often do not realize that we are surrounded by a beautiful word of mathematical phenomena. Last but not least, mathematical skills can be learned in order to be able to recognize mathematical patrons and systems. Therefore, this means that anyone can do math!

You might think; “that is easy for you to say”. Well maybe you are right or maybe you have not been able to use the right skillset. Thus, I want to share some tips with you that will help you, your child or your student to understand and enjoy math in a clearer and easier way.

**READ**. Yes, you read it right. Nowadays solving a math problem is like testing your reading and comprehension abilities. For example,*There is a clock hanging in my living room and it has the shape of a dodecagon. When one hour has passed, how*many*degrees did the minute hand turn?*

There is a clock hanging in the living room, so what? What I am interested in is the shape of this clock and if it has any special attributes. After gathering some information about a dodecagon, which is a figure with sides of the same lengths and internal angles of the size, now we can answer the question. Knowing that the minute hand goes all around the clock when one hour has passed, tells us that it has turned 360 degrees.

**PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE**. Although math is an important subject in school, we are not always aware of the practical use of math, at least not until college. So, since we are unable to apply the most complex parts of the mathematical principals in our daily life, we will have to keep practicing solving problems, until we recognize the equations, patrons, and systems. This means that it will take time and patience to acquire the necessary skills to solve these problems and that is okay. Simply put, keep practicing! You know what they say: “Good practice makes perfect!”.

**WRITE DOWN YOUR CALCULATIONS**. Remember the time when we had to use a pen and paper to write something down so that we would not forget it? For that same reason, you should write down every step of your calculations. I always tell my students that math is not only a matter of brainpower but also work power. When solving problems you do not have to give a definition for a certain figure or shape, however, you need to know its properties in order to make mathematical calculations. You might know in your mind how to answer the question, but your teacher does not. So in order to show you have acquired a mathematical skill to solve a certain problem, you must write down the calculations. And the best part about this is that math has its own language in which calculations are the response to whatever question is posed.

**WORK NEATLY!**I cannot stress enough how important this is. Math is all about numbers and sometimes even I get dizzy of seeing too many numbers in an unorderly fashion.

**CHECK IF YOUR CALCULATIONS ARE RIGHT**. If you have written your calculations neatly down, you can now check if every step you have written is correct and leads you to the right answer. If not, look at which calculation step it went wrong and try to correct it from thereon. When you repeat this for every problem you solve, then you are doing math the right way.

So let’s get rid of all the mystery and let’s do math!