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Published: Thu, 12 Oct 2017

Deciphering Numbers and Maths Short-cuts

Studying for a maths exam – or needing to recall formulae or information that contains a large amount of numbers – can seem intimidating, but it does not have to be if you employ a few learning short-cuts and focus on some specific techniques that put the power of your built-in mental capacity. You will be able to master numbers, figures, and formulas in no time at all. Let’s start with some simple exercises:

  • Write down the formulae that you want to memorise for your exam. Write them a few times, as the process of writing them down will help cement them in your short-term memory.
  • Close your eyes and try to repeat the formulas out loud to see if this process has helped your recall ability.
  • Continue to hone in on ways to store the formulas deeper inside your memory by creating a mental picture of the formula. Since many formulas have a distinctive look to them, it sometimes helps to visualise them as an image rather than as individual characters.
  • Reinforce each formula by undertaking practise problems with each formula. An application step such as this always helps to reinforce it and push it deeper into your memory.
  • Be sure to separate formulae into groups where there are similarities and reproduce these groups in your head, like a mental filing system.

There are other specific tips to employ when it comes to numbers, figures, and formulas:

  • The substitution strategy works well as a learning device for maths, particularly when it comes to formulas and calculations where part of the equation is still unclear to you or it is not sinking into your memory. Put something into the equation in place of that unknown so that you can use that to help you recall the part you do not understand but have to memorise. This could apply to the function or meaning of variables within the formula, or it might be useful for any type of word problem that your maths exam will have as part of what you need to know.
  • You’ll most likely also have to remember terms and definitions, so focus on the keywords and take out any unnecessary words to speed information recall. Try flash cards for committing the terms, definitions, symbols or formulas to memory. This can test your recall level.
  • Create concept lists by writing terms, formulas, symbols and other key information in one column of a paper while you put definitions, answers, and applications in the other column.
  • Use characterisation for memorising symbols by drawing or visualising them as characters.

Problem solutions are common in maths subjects – for these, you must know the right order of steps that are needed to solve maths problems. You can use the following tactics:

  • Rehearsal and practise help commit the right order to your long-term memory because you are replicating the steps over and over.
  • By solving problems forwards and backwards, you are reinforcing each step in your mind. Procedure flash cards are another way to do this.

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