How To Be Good At Math

Anita is running to the right at 5 m/s, as shown in Figure P3.21. Balls 1 and 2 are thrown towards her at 10 m/s by friends standing on the ground. According to Anita, what is the speed of each ball?

Friends Fail: Anita needs new friends

So today I walked into my Programmable Logic Controllers class late (as per usual) to find that everyone had been taking a test for the last five minutes. And, as usual, I spaced the test and had made no effort to prepare for it. And, as usual, I was done with the test in about half the allotted time. And before anyone else.

This is why I love math/logic/physics classes: they require no studying, no memorization, no reading, and they are almost purely objective. Unless your teacher lives to make his/her students miserable, these classes could (and probably should) be the easiest classes you take in college. And here is the simple 1-step method to success:

NEVER LEARN ANYTHING. I guess that’s actually a zero-step method. The idea is to become independent from memorizing things and to learn the raw math behind everything. Don’t trust formulas (especially from textbooks) and instead learn how the formulas work. And don’t even trust what you learned previously, but rather relearn the applicable knowledge every time you need to apply it. Make sure it makes sense as you’re using it. Don’t even trust your own memory.

Most of my learning occurs while I’m doing the homework or taking the test as my ability to pay attention in class (and my attendance) decreases. That’s the beautiful thing about math: it’s not a series of formulas or memorization and the people who try and treat it as such have a harder time with it. Math, at its core, is a very small set of operations (I daresay it’s just one operation, entirely consistent with itself and thus applicable across the entire spectrum of applications). That single operation is difficult to understand in its entirety, but it is much easier to learn than trying to divide it into a different operation for every application and then memorize them all.

As a note, every rule has exceptions: there are a lot of mathematical applications which aren’t practical to solve every time. In physics, there are a lot of coefficients that come about because of the way we humans created our units of measurement and these are obviously worth memorizing as no amount of raw math will enable you to guess at units and conventions. This is generally the case whenever math is applied.

This is why I love math. Math makes sense. It is logical and it is not subjective. Generally speaking, an answer to a math problem is correct regardless of the teacher and it can be learned on the spot. In a lot of subjects, memorization is key and if you didn’t memorize the right information before the test, you are SOL; however, math can be derived at test time (case and point: my test today). Additionally, most teachers will award you partial credit if you had the right idea but made a simple computational error, which is generally not the case with multiple choice questions. And in my experience, multiple choice questions often have multiple correct answers depending on how the question is interpreted, so [in math classes] there is considerably less need to read the test-maker’s mind in order to get a correct answer.

Finally, I’m really not ‘smarter’ than anyone else–most people are just as intelligent (if not moreso) than me. It really is just how we approach math classes. I don’t think anyone is inherently bad at math or beyond the scope of good math grades–the problem generally lies in how they approach math.

As a note, I still have twenty-four minutes to finish my test. ; – )

Peace and love,



One Response to “How To Be Good At Math”

  1. 1 Some Points From My Week « ReLife

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