By Germain Tanoh, PhD – The Afro News Vancouver : We all recognize the importance of knowing how to read in our society, but very few view mathematics with nearly the same regard. Most people would be ashamed to admit that they are illiterate, but in North America, it is socially respectable to confess that one can’t do math. In a recent survey by the BC Ministry of Education, 56% of grade 12 students in British Columbia said that they are struggling with mathematics.

Math avoidance has become a sport very popular in the educational system. Students develop strategies and plans to avoid math. They are more inclined to enrol in a program if it requires fewer maths or no math qualification at all. These students are excluding themselves from promising and well-paying careers.

Have a Positive Math Attitude

Bad experiences with math are the main reason students don’t like math and can explain their negative attitude about learning math. It is not uncommon to hear students say that they hate math. “I’ve hated math ever since I was nine years old, when my father grounded me for a week because I couldn’t learn my multiplication tables.” A student confessed.

Punishment is not the best way to make students learn and perform in math. However, it is alarming that, it is socially acceptable not to do well in math. The message parents are passing to their children is that, it is normal not to learn math. The truth is, students cannot access health sciences & medical school, business school, or engineering school to cite a few without a proof of basic knowledge of math and a good command of math. In other words, parents are closing doors to better jobs for their children. Children only replicate their parent’s attitude about learning mathematics. That is why, parent must avoid any math stereotype and focus on finding ways to help their child develop positive math attitude.

Because of the widespread social belief, as a student you may be content with your poor performance in math and think it is all right to fail math. I am afraid to disappoint you. It is not! If you are struggling with math or you are afraid you will fail math, here are three ways you can get the help you need:

1. Use the resources of your school, college or university. Most of them have a tutoring lab, if your education institution doesn’t have one; consider hiring an upper level math student or a professional math tutor for individual learning support.

2. Visit your math professor or math teacher during office hours and attend any extra workshop or help session she or he offers.

3. Join or start a math study group with some of your classmates.

Study Math in a Different Way

General learning study methods can help you pass most of your courses, but to get better grades in math, you will need to adopt a different approach and develop math study skills. Mathematics is not like other courses. Because of this particularity, math requires a different study process. All you have to do to succeed in other courses is to read, understand, and recall the subject material. To pass math, an extra step is required: You must use the information you have learned to solve math problems accurately. Here are some tips to help you improve your math study skills:

• Consider math a foreign language. Math requires daily practice. If you do not practice a foreign language, you lose it. The same holds true for math, if you do not practice, you are likely to forget it. Start with the very simple; make an effort to understand every step for solving examples problems given in your textbook or in your class notes.

• Do your homework assignments or read your notes later that same day after class. Math is a speed subject. Most of the time, it is taught faster than the other subjects. At college or University, instructors have to finish certain chapters because the next math course is based on the information taught in their courses.

• Attend every class. Leaning math is different from learning other subject because math follows a sequential learning pattern. It means that the mathematical concept learned on one day is used the next day and the next day, and so forth. This is the reason it is difficult to catch up when you fall behind. If you ever have to miss a class, it’s imperative that you meet with your professor during office hours and make certain that you understand the material you missed. If you don’t, you may be lost or struggling for weeks or the rest of the term.

• You should avoid reading your mathematics textbooks or your math notes the same way you read a novel. You should schedule a big block of time so you don’t have to rush. You should sit at a desk, with paper and pencil in hand, verifying statements that are unclear to you and inserting question marks in margins so that you will be ready to ask questions and improve your understanding of new mathematical concepts.

Math Is the Future

In this digital world, those who understand and can do mathematics will have significantly enhanced opportunities and options for shaping their futures. Mathematics is an essential skill as important as reading and writing. Everyone can do math, follow these tips and you would be surprised how effective they can be.

Dr. Germain Tanoh is Director, Learning Support at Hello Math. He is an entrepreneur and educator, and holds a Ph.D. degree in Applied Mathematics. He can be reached at gtanoh@hellomath.ca