Ten Ways to Survive the Math Blues

By Murray Bourne, 14 Jun 2005

  1. EarthFigure out the Big Picture: Find out why you are doing this math. How does it fit with your other courses (science, geography, English, engineering)? You could do some Internet searches on the math you are studying and include "application". Get a sense of where you are going and why you are doing this. Mathematics is compulsory in most of the world - there has to be a reason...
  2. Get on top of it before it gets on top of you. Yep, mathematics is one of those things that builds on prior knowledge. Yet many students learn things only for an examination and then promptly forget it, setting themselves up for later difficulties. Learn for the future, not for tomorrow's test.
  3. Read Ahead. It is strongly advised that you read over next week's math right now. You won't understand it all, but you will have a better sense of what is coming up and how it fits with what you are doing this week. Then, when your class goes through it later, your doubts and uncertainties will reduce - and you will understand and remember it better.
  4. booksUse more than one resource. It often happens that you can't follow the teacher's explanation and your textbook is very confusing. Borrow 2 or 3 textbooks similar to your own from your library and read what they have to say about the topic. Often they will have a diagram, a picture or an explanation that gives you the "Ahhh - I get it!" that you desire.
  5. Don't join the Blame Game. Teaching mathematics is tough. Teachers really have to work hard to make math fun, interesting and engaging. It is easy to blame a teacher for a bad grade, but who is really responsible for your future?
  6. Practice makes Perfect. You don't expect to be able to play guitar or drive a car without practice. Well, learning mathematics (unfortunately) involves some slogging away and doing exercises. Don't get bogged down, though - use your other resources to help you through the homework.
  7. clockTime Management. Start homework assignments as soon as you get them. There may be some things on there that you haven't done in class yet (because maybe it is not due for a few weeks). That's good - it helps to focus your thoughts so that when you are doing that section in class, you know that it is important and you'll know what you don't know. Nobody plans to fail - but many fail to plan...
  8. Don't fall into the trap of copying from a friend to survive. They probably have the wrong answer anyway. Besides, a lot of students resent being asked for their assignments for copying - they are too afraid of a ruined relationship to say no. Hey, you can do it - have the confidence in your own ability.
  9. Never, never give up. Math uses a different part of the brain than most other things in school. It can be stressful when you can't figure out something. Work on something else for a while and come back to it later.
  10. smileyKeep a sense of humour! Don't lose the ability to laugh at yourself and your own mistakes. Mistakes are not the end of the world - they are the beginning of real learning!

Go to home Interactive Mathematics for free math lessons.

See the 48 Comments below.

48 Comments on “Ten Ways to Survive the Math Blues”

  1. Yule Heibel’s Post Studio © 2003-2007 » Math Online, and a Math Blog, too says:

    [...] As for the mysterious (no ‘about’ link) SquareCircleZ, he (I’m guessing) also has an excellent article, How to Survive the Math Blues, which I am putting on my kids’s “must-read” list. We’ll probably be visiting this blog and the Interactive Math site on a regular basis from now on. [...]

  2. How to learn math « Let’s play math! says:

    [...] Ten Ways to Survive the Math Blues: General tips on how to learn as much as possible from any math course. [...]

  3. 10 ways to survive the Math blues « Chtanmaths’s Weblog says:

    [...] 10 ways to survive the Math blues Filed under: Senior Middle One (Science), Senior Middle Two (Art & commerce) — chtanmaths @ 1:37 pm 10 ways to survive the Math blues [...]

  4. nadeem says:


  5. Murray says:

    Hello Nadeem

    You can find a chapter on Fourier Series over at Interactive Mathematics. Hope it helps!

  6. mekuria says:

    God bless you throughout your life .Thank you!

  7. Mathematics… | To Be Or Not To Be: says:

    [...] is a post I think is very useful for students studying mathematics: Ten Ways To Survive The Math Blues by experienced math educator Murray Bourne. He also owns a website, Interactive Mathematics. While [...]

  8. Boima Korgbe says:

    Math requires time and patience. Math is not a rushing game. You have to focus and be able to relate.

  9. PdfoK FilE says:

    Thanks for the information. I read about these 10 ways and found them very interesting and really useful for students who are fond of mathematics. I wish you good luck and thank you one more for sharing this info.

  10. Laila Utari Ratna says:

    Thank you for everything you've done to make us LOVE the math..I'm rather not confidence and stressful everytime I do my math homework or exam..but actually I'm an engineering student I have to deals with math everyday until the end of my life..thank you again for squarecirclez and intmath..you really do great job and make this world looks better for me..^_^

  11. Murray says:

    You're welcome, Laila! I've added your comments to the Testimonials section at https://www.intmath.com/help/site-info.php.

    All the best with your studies.

  12. momo says:

    i find that this is quite usefull - have been following it and things look auspicious for the coming exam...

  13. april says:

    woahh,, this is really a good help for me to improve my mathematics skills.. I'm an applied math student and well, we always deal with numbers..
    but actually as we go on to higher mathematics, it seems to me that we don't deal that much with numbers anymore but with LETTERS..
    well, thanks to all the people who are behind this kind of learning site..=)

  14. Stephanie says:

    This article highlights all the simple ways to do well in a math class because all math really takes is keeping up with the homework (this is extremely crucial with math) and by doing so, you're effectively practicing the concepts. I think the most important thing it mentions is time management and not falling behind, that's helped me in my math classes.

  15. Liza says:

    The article is quiet interesting. There are few materials on this theme. And here is Russian translation: http://hijos.ru/2011/02/20/??????-??????-?????????-???-????????/

  16. Olga Ndapa says:

    Waaauuuuu! I really love these 10 ways of surviving maths blues and I find them very helpful. I tried following them, and they really helped me alot with my mathematics. Thanks alot for helping us to do the best we can do out of maths, thank you for caring. " God, the almighty will reward you"!

  17. Olga Ndapa says:

    As an engineering student, I reAlly would love to recommend other engineering students to use 10 ways of surviving maths blues to make maths easier to them. But these ways can apply to other subjets. TRY THEM, YOU WILL SEE THE DIFFERENCE!

  18. mawanda ismail says:

    As a long time maths teacher, i really appreciate the ten ways to survive the maths blues, i encourage all those young students who would like to succeed in maths to adopt them. They will see miracles happen. Thanks.

  19. Nisa says:

    I particularly like the first point, “Figure out the Big Picture,” because as a tutor for trigonometry and pre-calculus, when I ask my tutees why they are taking their particular math courses, it allows me to see how commited they may be to learning the subject. For example, for someone who is taking the math course just to complete an elective, it allows me to anticipate how much of the information they just learned will be commited to memory. If a particularly complicated mathematical concept is to be covered in the course, I usually explain how making an effort to understand instead of memorizing this particular concept has helped me in my math career as a college student, and I also try to find a way to ease the process of learning the concept based on my past frustrations and difficulties that I overcame. If the tutee is taking the math course as a pre-requisite for a course pertaining to a major, I usually point out how the particular concept will be used in the higher math courses to emphasize the need to understand the concept rather than just memorizing it.

  20. Murray says:

    @Nisa: Thanks for the input.

    Too many math courses exist in separate "boxes" - the teachers often don't know how it is related to the rest of their course, or the math the students will do later. So how can we expect the students to connect the dots?

  21. 10 Ways to do better in Math « Entrepreneurial Math says:

    [...] 10 Ways to survive math [...]

  22. lulu says:

    ur maths tips are beyond brilliant..,just got my maths spark back thnx 2 u...me like(-_-)

  23. Murray says:

    @lulu - great to hear the tips were useful for you! Good luck with your studies.

  24. Iwuchukwu Chibuike says:

    : You are actually being used by God to help lives,"doing a good job"

  25. Kenneth idung says:

    I really enjoy this site, it makes me refresh my memory. Secondly, i like the way mathematics is been solve in this site, i mean the steps. onlike others.


  26. Matt says:

    This is a brilliant site Murray, I'm a mathematician myself, yet still you've managed to bring back to memory things that i've forgotten! Excellent site.

  27. Murray says:

    @Matt: Thanks for your positive feedback. Always good on a Friday! I've added it to the other IntMath testimonials

  28. Zal0004 says:

    I really appreciate the good Samaritan: creator of this site. Someone, finally understand that not everybody can afford to spend money in order to learn something! May God bless him. Clear and simple math learning gears!!! That s cool.

  29. Hassan Mohamed says:

    Thanks,I will try to workout these ways in my life to study maths

  30. George DeMarse says:

    Nice tips.

    But many believe, rightly, that they just don't have the math "get up and go" that seems to come easily for others--or at least comes in time to pass the course.

    For many of us, "getting math" never comes in time--no matter the study habits.

    And yes, giving it up is the best course of action. The headaches go away. The stress eases. Relaxation comes at last. We can watch reruns in peace without dreading the next math exam.

    We come to believe, with Howard Gardner, that individuals are endowed with certain intelligences, and that these intelligences develop differently in individuals. I just don't have a good share of the "math intelligence," and neither do a lot of people.

    Best to concentrate on what intelligences we can develop without as much struggle.

    I can watch reruns with ease, can you?

    The Sage of Wake Forest

  31. Murray says:

    @George - I agree not everyone is capable of doing everything (otherwise we'd all be brain surgeons, arctic explorers or composers).

    Everyone should learn some math, but then there's a cut-off somewhere above which it shouldn't be made compulsory. Perhaps that cut-off point is not quite right...

  32. Asamnkele says:

    Guy, i've just read the 10 ways of surviving in math i guess they will work for me too but i'm sure they will thank you.

  33. joki dragon nest says:

    i hope "Ten Ways to Survive the Math Blues" can work for my sister 🙂

  34. Myline says:

    Hey I hate math and suck at really badly. However, in reading the 10 steps to survive Math blues makes it seem like math isn't all that bad after all. I will give it a try.

  35. charmaine says:

    I'd really like to thank you for your effort, I am writing my 1st exam in March and I was so frustrated,but you rescued me. The DVD that's being advertised,can I get it in South Africa? May the Lord shower you with blessings

  36. sarah says:

    thankssssssssss, soooooooooo much! You are my angel, you did give me hope :)))))))))))))))))) Thousand times thanks, don't feel alone longer, even when i have nobody 😉

  37. Lauren says:

    I can't thank you enough for this site. I'm a former broadcaster, writer and a mom who is training for a third career. I'd been out of math for so long, that I had only remembered bits and pieces of my formal education. Read: Just enough to get me into trouble.

    Though I'm an honors student who is now into her third year at U of M Majoring in Molecular Biology, I had a terrible time moving forward because of the required math. I had taken, and retaken an intermediate algebra class three times. I was beginning to consider a career in fast food. I was literally depressed and beside myself over my math failings. No joke.

    Your platform makes the learning make SENSE. Even better, it's simple outline helps me to de-frag past learning and wipe the slate clean so that I can actually, I'm confident... PASS THIS CLASS! More important than any of that.. no more panic attacks every time I sit down to homework.

    Thank you so very, very much.

  38. Murray says:

    You are very welcome, Lauren! All the best with your future math study, and molecular biology is a great field to be in.

  39. stephany says:

    This article is very helpful for us 🙂 and i would love to share this tips to my classmates and batch-mates who are actually having trouble in our math subjects... 😀 thank you!

  40. 10 Ways to Survive Math Blues | Oh My Math! says:

    […] article 10 Ways to Survive Math Blues will give you simple ways on how to do well in math and learn to love mathematics. This will also […]

  41. Kate says:

    Anything on surface area of a cylinder?

  42. Murray says:

    @Kate: Actually, not yet, but you could ask your question on the IntMath Forum.

  43. Cassie says:

    I am mostly a math tutor. I do tutor other subjects, however the most need is in math. By no means am I the best or the smartest at math. However, I do find these suggestions very useful and helpful for my tutees. I can break down a few of these helpful tips a bit more, but I feel like they are just simple enough to follow most of the way.
    I do think that we need math for almost everything, and I do tend to ask that pesky question of ‘when am I ever going to use this?’ but after I really payed attention, which took a lot to do, I was able to see where it comes in to my life all day long.
    My best advice on all subjects is to have a study buddy, ask questions, and take breaks. If I find myself spending too long on a problem or getting frustrated, the best thing is to take a break, look away, and or get something to eat.
    I do like to look ahead to the next lesson, however it can also give off the defeated feeling. Especially when the tutee or student isn’t confident about their skills. I do believe that anyone can learn math, but it takes time and practice. Remember, we are learning another language, the language of numbers and how to manipulate them.

  44. Murray says:

    @Cassie: Thanks for the extra suggestions.

  45. Gideon says:

    Murray. I'm very grateful for your post.

  46. Aditya chetri says:

    Tnkz a lot...It worked and seems my math get more bold....it is one of the best internet use...tnkz a lot...

  47. Arnaud says:

    Murray Bourne, you did a fantastic job on providing ten ways to avoid the math blues. I can absolutely attest to what you are saying, and would recommend to anyone to follow the same.

    Cheers guys.

  48. Jaxon Pither says:

    very useful

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