Math does not have to suck. Some people really like it. And those people aren’t always nerds, dweebs, or losers. In fact, some of the coolest people I know are amazing at math. Heck, some of the richest people you’ve ever heard of think math is awesome.
Like who? Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett are all geniuses and mathists.
These guys totally Pwn math. I mean, mega own it. And they are rich, powerful, loved, respected, and in charge of their own lives. Math is not lame. If you don’t understand the math on the SAT, it’s not because math is hard or you are dumb. It’s neither! Let me show you what I mean.
Math makes your brain hurt
I understand that you think you just “cannot do the math”. It’s understandable. Math can be hard. And the SAT makes that kind of hard math tricky, with tricks and such. Tricksy tricks. And not the fun at night but kind of embarrassed in the morning tricks. I’m talking invisible plugin, stupid back solving tricks.
But, math isn’t really “hard” and the tricks aren’t really tricks. It’s just manipulation. The SAT test writers create questions that ask simple math in complicated ways. You should know simple math. Because of that, your problem is very likely in the “complicated ways” part of my previous sentence.
The devil is in the details
The thing is. Even if you don’t remember how to find a hypotenuse, you have studied it before. Math is great, generally, because an answer is an answer. There is no ambiguity. If I give you some integers and a ‘+’, you’ll be able to give me what comes after the ‘=‘.
The root of your SAT math problem is not your machines or even the fact that you don’t remember how to add fractions. It’s because you do not fully understand the questions and you tend to fall into trick answers.
You know how to add, subtract, multiple, and divide. You know how to solve for ‘x’. You know how to take the area of a circle. (Note: If you do not know how to do any of those, it’s okay. Check out my SAT kit and get back to basics!) But you fall for the tricks that the other students fall for. You pick ‘C’ because ‘C’ looks good. But the only reason ‘C’ looks good is because you misunderstood the question.
Seriously, you misunderstood the question! You can do the math, you just don’t get the questions. And that is a problem we can fix.
Fixing the issue is easy enough
Fixing the problem involves two things: (1) understanding the problems and (2) finding a pattern. Understanding your problem is easy.
If you do the math and you get an answer and that answer is one of the answer choices, yet you still get it wrong, then your math is not the problem, it’s your ability to understand the question. Understanding questions involves practice, paraphrasing, logic, and English skills. Whenever I ask a student a math question, the first thing she does is start calculating. “Whoa, whoa, whoa”, I try to say. Why don’t you tell me what you are looking for before you start plugging in integers. If you can explain the question, you understand the question. If you can say, “I need ‘x’, but really, I need to know how her age relates to ‘x’”, then you really get it.
If you cannot do the math, well, then we are either dealing with a knowledge issue (sat kit!) or a tactics issue (plugging in and back solving, anyone?) Figuring those out will help you move forward. Math is easy enough to learn. You learn one fact, practice. You learn another fact, practice. Then you try to link those two facts together using a holistic method.
Finding a pattern requires one of three things. (1) hire someone to teach you the patterns, (2) buy a book and read about all the patterns, or (3) do enough practice problems so that the patterns reveal themselves to you.
Want to know a hint? Even if you choose to hire a tutor or buy a book, you’ll still end up doing hundreds of practice problems. So, why don’t you start practicing now?
What you can start doing today
(1) Buy the official SAT guide – This is the most authoritative source of SAT questions. It’s written by the meanies who made the SAT. Just remember that when you buy it, you are giving money to people you hate. It’s like me giving money to the anti-coffee lobby in exchange for the right to now drink coffee. I love coffee, and I hate the anti-coffee lobby. (note: That actually doesn’t exist)
(2) Take half the tests timed and the other half as practice - You don’t want to practice in the whole book, but you also don’t want to simply time yourself through the whole book. Take a math section and see how many you can answer.
(3) Assess your strengths and weaknesses – Go through each question and give it a category and a difficulty level. Put down what is being tested (plugging in, quadratics, triangles, decimals) and how hard you through the problem was.
(4) Make an excel sheet with this data - Make sure you create an excel sheet with question number, category, level of difficulty, right or wrong. This will help you see patterns – you tend to get hard triangle questions wrong. Awesome, that means you can re-learn triangles and try to catch question patterns (like, it looks like a circle question but it’s actually a triangle question)
(5) Try to figure out why each wrong answer is wrong - This is complicated. I mean you should go through each question (before you check your answers) and try to figure out how someone could pick an answer you did not pick. If, for example, you picked ‘C’ on question 5, you should know how a kid could get A, B, D, or E on that same question. This will create a link between questions and answer choices in your brain. This is the biggest win you can get out of your time.
(6) Dominate your SAT
I know this takes a lot of time, but if you do it properly, you will see some incredible success.
What are you going to do or what have you done that is different from this but equally effective? Do you think you can actually go through the effort to fix your math skills?