For most students this is the single most effective way of becoming better and more confident with math. Know your math facts! Most importantly, know your multiplication tables through 12, how to divide any number by 2 quickly, perfect squares, and how to find a percent from a decimal and vice versa.
Here memorization is key. Read my blog every Friday for Math Fact Friday tips. Flash cards can help a lot, but only if you actually use them! Practice them in the car on the way to school in the morning (only if you aren’t driving!) There are also a lot of free apps you can download on your mobile device to practice math facts and mental math. The more math you can do in your head quickly, the less you have to use a calculator for (which takes time!)
Tip 2: Focus! No distractions!
Turn off the phone/iPod/iPad/etc and put it in another room to charge. Don’t even let yourself be tempted. If you don’t have a separate scientific calculator, buy one. It’s worth the $10. You will need it for higher math classes anyway and no teacher in their right mind will let you use your PHONE on a test.
While we are on the topic of calculators, make sure you know how to use it. It takes more time if you are trying to figure it out while you are doing your homework. Try to get the same kind you use in class so you don’t have to learn two separate calculators. Most schools use Texas Instruments TI-30 for scientific and TI-83 for graphing. Some schools use Casio’s. Just ask your teacher if you aren’t sure.
Find a quiet place to do your homework so you can focus. If you can’t find somewhere quiet, put on some headphones with some classical music. This is a last resort because the music player can distract you. Ideally you should have a iPod mini or something similar with ONLY homework songs on it.
Remember, it is YOUR responsibility to find a distraction-free place. Don’t yell at your sibling for distracting you if you are in the family room! Don’t be surprised if your friends won’t let you do your homework at the lunch table. Eat quickly and then go to the library or eat in your teacher’s classroom.
Tip 3: Have your resources ready!
Have everything you need to do your homework in your backpack at all times. This way you can do your homework anytime you have your backpack (at school, waiting for practice, during study hall, at home, at your friend’s house, etc.) Some things you should include in your “Homework Kit” are:
- Pens (black and blue), pencils, erasers
- All class handouts
- Ruler, compass, protractor (if required for class)
- Lined paper
- Graph paper
- Cheat sheet with formulas (if you don’t have one look on the last page of your book!)
Tip 4: Finish as much as you can at school!
Find time at school to finish as much homework as possible. This was my main strategy while I was in school. I practiced gymnastics 20 or more hours per week, so finishing most of my homework at school was a requirement if I ever wanted to sleep. I started with this strategy in 7th grade and kept with it until I graduated college!
Many classes will give you time at the end of class to start on your homework. USE THIS TIME!!! Look over the whole assignment and do the HARDEST problems in class so you can work with a classmate or with your teacher to complete them. The rest of the homework will feel like a breeze knowing you already completed the hardest problems.
Find free time during class to complete homework problems. Did you finish your warm-up early? Or perhaps you finished your classwork with time to spare. Start on your homework!!
Also, look for time during the school day to work on homework. If you get dropped off early, head to your first class and finish your homework while you wait for class to start. During nutrition break, eat on your way to your next class. Again, finish your homework while you wait for class to start. Obviously, if you have a free period or study hall, work on your homework during that time. During lunchtime, eat your lunch quickly then head to the library to work on homework. Or better yet, ask a teacher or counselor if you can eat lunch in their classroom and work on your homework while you eat.
Take advantage of after school tutorials if they are offered. Plan on going EVERY WEEK, as if school didn’t really end until tutorial is over. Only skip if you have already finished ALL of your homework. Or better yet, stay and help other students with their homework!
What are your favorite strategies for finishing math homework quickly? Do you think you will try any of the above strategies if you aren’t already doing them?