Have you ever looked at a math problem and felt completely lost? You’re certainly not the only one. Mathematics can seem like a big challenge for many students, with its complex formulas and difficult concepts. This struggle is exemplified by a student’s question on Quora, where they share their fear of failing in math and having to repeat the grade. Their call for help brings attention to a common problem that many students face. But why is math so hard for so many, and what can we do to get better at it?

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Key Takeaways:

  • A strong foundation in basic mathematical concepts is fundamental. Filling gaps in fundamental knowledge is crucial for understanding more advanced topics.
  • Successful math learning involves understanding the ‘why’ behind the formulas and concepts, not just memorizing them. 
  • A range of study methods, including regular practice, self-testing, group study, and using educational resources, are recommended.
  • Seeking personalized instruction and feedback, whether through tutoring or group study, is invaluable.

The author of the Quora question openly shares a common but deeply personal battle: a consistent struggle with math. They admit to not being “the brightest when it comes to math”, a confession that many students can relate to. This struggle is not only about grappling with numbers and formulas. It’s also about the real impact it has on their academic life. The author mentions receiving poor marks on tests, a situation that brings disappointment and the looming threat of repeating the grade. This fear is not just about facing the same material again but also about the stigma and frustration that comes with it.

How can I better my grades in mathematics? I was never the brightest when it comes to math. I got two bad marks in both tests. I’m really really dumb but I don’t wanna repeat the grade. I know I should study but I’m not good at it. Idk what to do.

Their earnest desire to improve is clear, yet they are honest about their difficulty in finding effective ways to study. This candid admission sets the stage for a conversation about the challenges many students face with math, going beyond just the subject matter and touching on the emotional and academic repercussions of these struggles.

The Abstract Nature of Mathematics. Why is it so hard?

The difficulties faced by the Quora question’s author reflect a wider problem that many students encounter in college math. One of the key reasons math can be so daunting is its abstract nature. Unlike subjects that relate directly to everyday experiences, math often deals with concepts that are not immediately tangible, making them harder to grasp. Additionally, math is a cumulative subject. Each new topic builds on previous knowledge, so if fundamental concepts are not solidly understood, students can quickly find themselves lost as the course progresses. This leads to a snowball effect, where small gaps in understanding turn into significant hurdles. Moreover, there are common misconceptions about math, such as the belief that being good at it requires innate talent rather than practice and perseverance. These misconceptions can discourage students right from the start, impacting their confidence and approach to learning. Understanding these challenges is vital to developing strategies that help students overcome their math-related obstacles.

From Self-Testing to Tutoring: Proven Math Learning Techniques

A group of Quora users reveals various strategies for overcoming math challenges, each based on their own experiences. One of them emphasizes the importance of a solid foundation, stating,

 “Most people who don’t understand math have missed something basic along the way.”

Another user champions the self-testing method. This approach reinforces learning and cultivates a deeper understanding of the material: 

“The best way to prepare for a test is to create and take your own tests.”

Understanding concepts deeply, rather than relying on rote memorization, is also a recurring theme. As one user advises,

“No one can ‘study’ their way through math. Math needs to be understood.”

Personalized assistance through tutoring is another strategy that is highly recommended. One of the users pointed out the value of individualized guidance in tackling difficult areas,

“Find someone willing to help you with homework and help you prepare for tests.” 

Moreover, the use of mnemonics is suggested as a tool to aid memory, especially for formulas and functions. A user shares, “For math, physics, etc., look at mnemonics. It can help you to remember formulae and functions as well as connections.”

These people’s responses not only offer practical tips but also a sense of hope, reassuring students that improvement in math is attainable with the right approach and mindset.

Key Practices and Benefits of Optimizing Math Learning

Mastering mathematics requires understanding formulas and solving problems. It also involves adopting effective learning strategies that enhance comprehension and retention. Below is a table that outlines various best practices for learning math. Each practice is described along with the specific benefits it offers. This guide is designed to help students identify and implement strategies that can significantly improve their mathematical abilities and confidence. Whether you are struggling with basic concepts or advanced topics, these practices, tried and tested by educators and successful students alike, can make a substantial difference in your mathematical progress.

Regular PracticeEngage in daily practice to reinforce skills.Builds proficiency and confidence.
Conceptual LearningUnderstand the reasoning behind concepts, not just procedures.Enhances long-term understanding and application.
Problem-SolvingSolve a variety of problems to improve analytical skills.Develops critical thinking and problem-solving ability.
Group StudyCollaborate with peers for different methods and explanations.Provides diverse perspectives and enhances comprehension.
Seek FeedbackRegularly ask for feedback from instructors or peers.Helps identify areas for improvement and solidifies knowledge.
Use Educational ResourcesUse textbooks, online courses, and videos for extra learning.Offers additional insights and aids in reinforcing concepts.
Teach OthersExplain concepts to others to deepen understanding.Improves retention and clarity of understanding.
Stay Curious and Open-MindedApproach math with curiosity and willingness to learn from mistakes.Fosters a positive learning environment and encourages continuous learning.


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