Improving Mathematical Skills: Strategies and Techniques for Success

Lucas Charbonnier

Lucas Charbonnier

Feb 12, 20244 min read

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Improving Mathematical Skills: Strategies and Techniques for Success

Learning how to calculate goes beyond simply performing a large number of calculations accurately and quickly. It involves the ability to think critically, anticipate the outcome of mathematical expressions, and understand the transformations that can be applied to them. It's not enough to seek solutions to exercises in simplification, factorization, equation solving, or inequality solving. To truly improve in mathematics, it is essential to comprehend the reasoning behind why certain directions are taken and why alternative approaches could have been considered.

To enhance your calculation skills, there are two key aspects to focus on: the core knowledge of mathematical formulas and techniques, and the effective organization and presentation of your calculations. Let's explore these elements in detail.

1. Mastering the Core Knowledge

Merely memorizing formulas is not sufficient. Relying solely on memory can lead to difficulties when your recall fails you. Instead, strive to associate each formula with a set of techniques that ensure you can retrieve them confidently and without hesitation when needed. These techniques can include visual or geometric representations, specific examples, or even unique applications. Remember, it's not about replacing rote memorization with a stockpile of tricks, but rather about internalizing the formulas through regular practice and utilization.

Avoid the temptation to immediately refer to a formula sheet or textbook chapter whenever you need a formula during independent work. This behavior, akin to copying and pasting in word processing, hinders the imprinting of the formula in your mind and ultimately impedes memorization. Instead, challenge yourself to write down the formula from memory, even if you make mistakes initially. If any doubt arises, you can immediately verify it using the techniques you have at your disposal. After exhausting your verification methods and writing down what you believe to be the correct formula, you can consult your course materials for confirmation. If you discover that the written formula is incorrect, the frustration of making an error will aid in better retention (and perhaps inspire you to find alternative methods to avoid future mistakes).

While initially time-consuming and mentally taxing, the practice of rethinking a formula each time you need it ultimately solidifies the essential relationships and ensures a thorough understanding. Over time, most formulas become reflexive, and you can provide them without the need for extensive verification. Although this approach may lead to errors initially, it equips you with the ability to recall formulas accurately, even those you haven't used in a while.

2. Effective Calculation Organization and Presentation

In mathematical calculations, two crucial steps are substitution (preserving the structure) and reduction (aiming for efficiency). By minimizing the amount of writing, you reduce the likelihood of errors. Excessive writing often leads to sloppy work, which is more prone to mistakes than proficient mental calculations.

During the initial stages of adopting mental calculation, it's natural to make errors due to the lack of familiarity. However, as with any skill, practice is key. If you make the effort to try mental calculations, you will undoubtedly reap the rewards in the long run. Mental calculations also provide the benefit of allowing you to anticipate the direction of a calculation before writing it down.

Additionally, when manipulating inequalities, strive to work with positive values as much as possible. This minimizes the risk of errors. Value absolute can also cause anxiety, especially when questions involve statements like the following: "For x∈R and h positive real number, write |x|⩽h as -h⩽x⩽h." It's crucial to understand and use the inequality |x|⩽h ⟺ -h⩽x⩽h without hesitation. Similarly, for any x and y, the inequality ∣|x|−|y|∣ ⩽ |x±y|⩽|x|+|y| holds true. However, when x and y are of similar magnitudes, using the inequality |x+y| ⩽ |x|+|y| is preferred as it provides an upper bound. Conversely, it may be beneficial to use the lower bound ∣|x|−|y|∣ ⩽|x−y| to prove that (x−y) is not zero.

3. Leveraging Trigonometry

A strong understanding of trigonometric formulas is immensely advantageous, especially in the early years of higher education. For instance, knowing that sin(π/4) = √2/2, sin(π/3) = 1/2 and √3/2, and cos²x+sin²x=1 enables you to calculate cos x in terms of sin y with ease. By using style prompts effectively, you can instruct ChatGPT to generate responses that align with your desired tone or format. For instance, you can request a conversational response, a friendly tone, or even a bulleted list. Adding descriptors such as "Funny," "Curt," "Unfriendly," or "Academic Syntax" can help fine-tune the AI's response to match your preferences.

In conclusion, improving mathematical skills requires a combination of core knowledge acquisition and effective calculation strategies. Don't simply rely on memorization; instead, associate each formula with a set of techniques that aid recall. Challenge yourself to write down formulas from memory before verifying them, as this strengthens retention. Embrace mental calculations to anticipate the direction of a calculation before writing it down, and aim for efficient organization and presentation. Finally, leverage trigonometry and utilize style prompts to customize the AI's responses to your desired tone and format. By implementing these strategies, you'll enhance your mathematical abilities and pave the way for success.

Resource:

  1. "Apprendre à calculer", http://maths-en-prepas.bginette.com/Exercices/TS-05-Calcul.php?sectChoisie=PCSI (Glasp)
  2. "🟢 Chatbot Basics | Learn Prompting: Your Guide to Communicating with AI", https://learnprompting.org/docs/basics/chatbot_basics (Glasp)

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