Understanding and memorising mathematical formula can be a tricky process, but with our top tips you’ll be sure to understand and memorise those key formulas, putting you in good stead for the exam.
1. Familiarise yourself with the formula in advance
Before you even get to your maths lesson, it’s a good idea to read over the upcoming topics in your textbook. You don’t need to memorise the formula you come across, but just taking 5 minutes to look at the content will mean that you are a little more familiar with what is being discussed. Not only will this method make the formula easier to learn the first time round, but will really help when it comes to memorising the formula later on.
2. Don’t try to learn lists of formulas
Do not sit at your desk and attempt to learn reams of formula without fully understanding the meaning behind them. This will merely increase the amount of time it takes to learn, and probably create a great deal of confusion in the mean time. Moreover, if you don’t understand the connection between meaning and formula, you’re brain will not be able to see connections and you are likely to quickly forget what you have learnt.
So that you do not answer a question in an exam situation using the wrong formula, try to draw a relevant corresponding diagram. This might take the form of a parabola or a circle, but associating it with the formula in question will help you remember both the formula and the application method necessary for obtaining the correct answer.
This may sound like an obvious point, but the more you practice using the formulas you need to know, the more likely you are to understand the formula.
If you do not use the formula in practice questions, you are probably making the task of memorising the formula more difficult for yourself.
4. Create a list of mathematical symbols
Most formulas require some Greek letters, other symbols like ^. In language learning, students create a list of all the new vocabulary they come across in an effort to further understand unfamiliar terms. As you progress, you refer to the list of new vocabulary and remind yourself that you have come across it before.
The same technique works in maths formula learning. Initially a lot of the symbols you will come across can seem alien and this can be confusing. Creating a list of the symbols you come across gives you something to refer back to and will stop new symbols feeling intimidating.
5. Use different channels to learn the formula
We have mentioned writing down formula on flash cards to help you memorise formula, however saying them out loud, speaking to a friend, teacher or tutor, or watching videos that detail their use can really help you memorise the different elements.
6. Use memory techniques
Think about all the phone numbers that you know by heart. Or think about when you go to the supermarket without a shopping list but are still able to remember what you wanted to buy. Most of us are perfectly capable of learning lists of numbers or words or objects that aren’t necessarily related. It just requires using the right memory techniques and these same techniques can be applied to learning formulas too.
A common method for remembering things is to create a story that involves everything you are trying to learn. The sequence of a story can also help you to remember things in a particular order. The more bizarre the story is, the easier it will be for you to remember it. And the same goes for the setting. If your story is set in a particularly unusual location, you will be much more likely to remember it later.
7. Understand the formulae
Often in maths exams, you will be given a formula sheet to help you with your answers so many students don’t see the point in learning them and fully understanding how they are devised. This is a mistake because it can lead to students using the wrong formulas and ending up with the wrong answers and therefore no marks.
If you understand how a formula is devised, it is much easier to know when to use each formula and ultimately get the right answers. Plugging in values and hoping for the best may work sometimes but you’ll have a much higher chance of picking up marks if you are familiar with all the formulas needed for the exam.
Learning formulas from the outset will also help you with future learning because you will have a better grasp of the basic maths concepts.
8. Get plenty of sleep
Never underestimate the power of sleep when it comes to memorising things. Permanent memories are created each night during the deep sleep phase where everything that we have thought about during the day is processed by our brain. It is during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep that we rehearse all the new skills we have learnt each day and start to consolidate them.
You need to get enough sleep in order to be able to memorise things so avoid staying up late and cramming the night before an exam. This will cause stress and you will be less likely to perform well. It’s always best to plan your revision to allow plenty of time to fit everything in.
9. Stay healthy
Although it may seem like a waste of time when you are busy studying, exercise is actually a great way to get the oxygen flowing to your brain and can be really beneficial to your learning. Also if you feel fit and healthy, you are less likely to be struck by stress-related illnesses which may have a negative effect on your studies.
10. Remove distractions
Memorising things requires full concentration so try to avoid surfing the Internet, listening to music or texting your friends whilst studying. There are so many things that can distract us from learning so it’s best to remove as many distractions as possible. Setting aside a period of time just for studying will help you to be more productive and will also make your learning easier.