Okay, so you’ve gone through several textbooks and past papers as I talked about in my previous article. But I’m sure there were a few difficult and challenging questions you couldn’t wrap your head around.
There were so many times during my senior years of high school where I would sit down and spend forever, and I mean forever, on just one question. What I thought was a simple question ended up having a complex solution where I had to work on it for hours or even days, coming back to the question to rearrange formulas, re-do the question to finally get to the answer.
I noticed that there were several reasons for taking so long to solve a problem and wasting so much time on one question.
Write your working out in an organised and neat manner
I may sound like your English teacher to write neatly or write in paragraphs but even for Maths, writing your working out alone is beneficial when you look through it again to see if you got anything incorrect.
If you’ve already written your working out, have a look at the structure and formatting of your response. You want to have values taken from the question at the top of the working out. For example, if they tell you that there are 50 mice and 60 cats, you could write it like this:
Assign values (50) from your question to a pronumeral (M) that you can instantly recognise as that value.
You also want to check out your formatting again - organised and structured formatting helps you and the marker to swiftly read through your working out. So, to make your and their life easier, you want to have some pleasant-to-read formatting.
To do so, you can ask yourself the following questions:
● Are my equal signs underneath each other?
● Do I have the formula written at the beginning of my working out?
● Do I have indents or have a space for a new formula or value I’m finding?
● Do my graphs take up the space provided or one A4 piece of paper?
● Do I have titles for new values I’m finding? (This isn't necessary for all questions. It is appropriate for longer or complex questions like graphing problems where they ask you to find several different values like the asymptotes, first and second derivative, intercepts, etc.).
Take a break!
If you’ve spent a while on one question - perhaps an hour or two, maybe even the whole day! - you want to mark the problem with a circle, a star, highlight it, or a question mark next to it just to signify that you struggled with the question and you need to come back to it at a later time.
Don’t get confused with marking your incorrect answers like I talked about in the previous article under past papers. You want to have a marking system where you circle your incorrect questions in red or star the questions you struggled in blue within the same paper, for example. This way, you won’t get confused with what you struggled with and what you got incorrect.
During the break, you want to recognise which topic the question you struggled with was from - was it calculus? Differentiation? Trigonometry? Graphing? Finance? Once you’ve recognised what you struggled with, go back to your textbook or other past papers and look for questions from that topic and solve them!
When you’re struggling with a question, it’s more likely that you’re struggling with parts of or the entire topic.
So, spend a few hours or maybe a day going through the textbook chapter review, read through the theory content, and solve questions again, and again from that topic. Remember, practice is key in a repetitive and logical subject like maths and you’ll be able to ace it!
Come back to the question and attempt to solve it again
After your break and some practice with similar questions, you’ve got a fresh mind and you can come back to the question again and attempt it. You’ll be more likely to be able to solve the question again!
Ask your friends or teachers
If you cannot comprehend or solve the question after your break, take a photo of the question and show your friends or teachers to ask for help! It may be hard for some students to reach out to others for help during a competitive stage in their school career, but it’s much more beneficial for you in the long term to reach out and ask for help.