How to improve on Maths Methods
The 3 Essential Steps
Table of Contents
So how to improve in Maths Methods? We all heard that “practice makes perfect”, and that the best way to improve at maths is through practice. So, combining the two, this would make perfect sense: the more questions you do, the better your study score for Methods will be, right?
Well, as it turns out, not necessarily. Because, the thing is, the key lies in practicing the right way. In this blog we’re going to talk about the most efficient and effective process to refine your skills, allowing you to make the most of every practice question you do.
But before you get your hopes up, this won’t be one of sensationalised articles or YouTube videos promising to take you from “D to A+ in a month with this ONE trick!”. The truth is, there is no “trick” to instantly ace Methods, or else everyone would get a 50. Methods is one of those subjects that relies on mathematical foundations, which takes time to develop.
To improve at and master Maths Methods is like growing a tree. Every new topic you have to learn is like a branch you gain – it is impossible to reap the rewards without planting the seeds first. Now let’s look at the three stages of how to improve in Maths Methods.
Stage 1: Planting roots
So you want to grow a tree. It starts with a seed, but you wouldn’t expect it to grow five metres overnight. Years of watering and patience are required for trees to grow that tall, but luckily for you, the journey to acing Methods isn’t anywhere near as long.
What’s important in this stage is patience (probably not watering?). Rather than rushing into the endless pit of textbook questions right away, make sure you fully understand the concept first.
Although learning through doing those questions might have been a successful method in earlier years, it’s simply far too risky to do in Year 12. It’s not only likely for you to miss out on crucial skills that aren’t tested in those questions – but also, relying on luck to do well is never a good idea in Methods.
If you develop a strong and more importantly intuitive understanding of the new concepts, your retention is likely to be far higher – saving you time down the line. The absolute worst thing you can do is to rote memorise formula or a set “algorithm” to solve the questions.
Therefore, make sure to fully comprehend the concepts and clarify any uncertainties with your teacher. The foundation and root systems you provide for your tree here are absolutely vital to its flourish later.
Stage 2: Branching out
How to improve on Maths Methods? By this stage, you should be equipped with all the necessary skills to succeed in Maths Methods. And now, it is time to put those skills to the test by doing lots of practice questions – ones that really make you think.
This is the stage that most students will struggle. “I understand all the concepts, but I’m not doing well in the tests!” is a frequent source of frustration for many. This feeling is universal. The problem lies in the “Valley of Disappointment”
Everyone wants to see instant results – it’s an inherent human bias. But the key here is to be consistent. Understanding every concept, familiarising yourself with every question type, improving your problem solving efficiency are all small things to work on that will eventually compound for immense results.
We expect improvements to occur linearly, but the reality is it slowly compounds, setting you up for exponential improvement later on. Consider improving just 0.5% each day, over the course of a year. This might just be doing an extra question than you normally would, conceptualising a topic to a deeper level than before, but if you consistently apply this each day, this is what your results will look like:
1.005365 ≈ 6.17
That’s right, you will improve more than six times over the course of the year. Yet just as easily, lazy habits will also compound. Being just 0.5% worse each day, such as skipping a textbook chapter, not reflecting on your mistakes, rote memorising a formula rather than understanding… this is what it will look like end of the year:
0.995365 ≈ 0.160
That is more than 6 times worse than what you were at the start of the year. Never underestimate the power of tiny gains or losses. No matter when you read this in your Maths Methods journey, there is always time to turn things around and improve tremendously – just don’t expect it to be instant.
Be consistent, review your mistakes and the improvements will come naturally.
Stage 3 - Treetops
Having pushed through windy days and stormy rains, it is with no doubt that you will have finally grown your tree. Enjoy the view while you can, but remember – trees rarely stop growing, and there are many more difficulties to come. But this time, take confidence in the fact that you have the ability to overcome them one by one.
Hopefully at this stage, everything clicks and connects and every concept feels like “it just makes sense”. Now that you can do everything without time pressure, try to apply yourself in timed conditions. Move on from textbook or Checkpoint questions to a practice SACs, Topic Tests or even practice exams, depending on where you’re up to.
If you can replicate everything under time pressure, that is when you have truly mastered everything. Make sure to continue reflecting on your mistakes and add to your error log. To help you, we’ve made a template that you can use. It was crucial to help me achieve my study score without spending an extraordinary amount of time, and we hope it will help you too!
If you want to read about Larry’s journey of getting a raw 50 in Maths Methods last year, you can read this blog by him.