High school is hard enough as it is, but add in a little hatred for math, and you’re probably more than ready to sprint across that stage, grab your diploma and never look back. If you find yourself dozing off while listening to your teacher rattle on about numbers and equations, you likely just don’t give AF about math. You might even wonder just when you’ll actually use this math again IRL (update: you probably won’t, depending on your major) but if you want that diploma, you have to learn how to survive your high school math class. Don’t worry—we’re here to help! Follow these tips and you’ll slowly but surely get through that dreaded math class.
1. Form a study group with friends
Misery loves company, right? Odds are all of your friends will be taking some sort of math class too and are probably dreading it just as much as you are. Instead of suffering through your homework individually, combine your efforts and study together. Pick one of your favorite spots near your high school (think coffee shops or pizzerias) and devote one or two days per week to being your ~math day~ where you’ll all grind through your homework together. "Group work is helpful because students can talk it over with their friends and help each other figure it out," says Kassey Betz, a recent University of Kansas grad and current math teacher. "If one person understands one part and the other understands something else, then they can 'teach' each other. Being able to walk someone else through the steps helps you completely understand the material and will make you so much more confident when you go through the problems on a test!" This step is both social and educational – bonus!
2. Set personal homework deadlines
With activities like attending football games on Friday nights or planning the next school dance, it’s so easy to get caught up in the excitement of high school—but it’s even more important to keep up with your schoolwork. Sure, it’s way more fun to hang out with your friends, but your impressive social calendar won’t impress colleges the way a high GPA will. Try setting personal goals or deadlines for all of your homework assignments, and don’t let yourself extend them! Set the deadline as early as possible though because math homework can be tricky AF and you might need to talk to your teacher if you have any questions. “I was always the worst procrastinator, and it would definitely get the best of me,” Lydia, a junior at Cal Poly, says. “By senior year, I knew I had to get all of my assignments done right away or else I would put them off and not do them at all.” The sooner you do it, the sooner it’s over!
3. Make chapter recaps immediately after finishing your practice problems
Telling yourself you’ll catch up on those homework problems next week is definitely the worst thing you could possibly do. Math classes tend to move quickly, so it’s incredibly easy to fall behind. Senioritis (or even junioritis, if we’re being honest) is a real issue, but whatever you do, don’t let it interfere with your math class. “It’s so easy to lose track of assignments once you start focusing only on graduation,” says Mary, a University of Arizona sophomore. “I remember having to force myself to fight senioritis and do my assignments, especially in my math classes.” It might be hard to do, but it’ll be so worth it. If you're struggling to keep up with the equations or information presented in each new chapter, start making a chapter recap immediately after you finish that week's set of practice problems. By making a one-page summary of the most important information you learned from that chapter while it's still fresh in your mind, you'll be ensuring you truly understand everything and be able to fill in any missing gaps before moving on to the next section.
4. Take detailed notes during class
If you find yourself mentally checking out during class as your teacher introduces new equations, you’ll definitely need to find a way to force yourself into paying attention. Be creative with the way you take notes– create a color-coded system to keep track of equations so you’re forcing yourself to pay attention. Any little extra note-taking ability will not only keep things visually interesting, but can actually make your math lessons a little more fun. "When I was in high school, I would always use one of those multi-inked pens during math so I could use different colored ink to keep track of different kinds of information," says Katie, a Grand Canyon University senior says. Try using a basic black ink for all practice examples, blue ink for any general equations and red ink for important tips or information. Having things laid out in different colors will help you keep track of all the information, while keeping you extra focused during class.
5. Reward yourself for paying attention
Honestly, paying attention is such a struggle when you just don’t care, so why not start a little positive enforcement situation? Grab your favorite bag of candy and eat a few pieces every 15 minutes you’ve paid attention without checking your phone. “If I didn’t reward myself for paying attention, I never would’ve made it through my math classes,” Mary says. “I always snuck in some sort of sour candy and would set a few on my desk for motivation to keep paying attention.” Whatever works, right? Even though you probably dread having to walk into that math classroom every day, at least you'll be making it as pleasant as possible and adding in a little extra self-care.
6. Turn to the internet for help
The internet isn't just a place to do a little online shopping or stay up-to-date on your friends' lives via social media – you can actually use it to study too! There are a ton of amazing resources out there that will break down each and every step of a math problem so you can follow along, pause when you need to and even rewind to watch it all again. It's basically like having a personal tutor – for free! One of the best online resources is Khan Academy, where they have each subject broken down into subsets so you can find exactly what you need. A quick YouTube search can help you find other informative videos as well. "I love doing a quick Google search when I'm confused about whatever I just learned in class," says Catarina, a senior at University of Nevada. "Sometimes it's easier to hear the material explained by someone who uses a different approach than a teacher. Plus you have so much more control over how fast you move through the steps since you can press pause whenever you need an extra second to work through it."
7. Meet with your teacher outside of class
When you just can't seem to figure things out on your own, don't be afraid to talk to your teacher outside of class. They will be more than willing to help walk you through the material and help point out any tips or tricks to solving the equations that they might not have had time to cover in class. A lot of math teachers even offer study hours in their classrooms where their students can sit and work through their homework problems and be able to ask questions whenever they get stuck. It's extremely helpful when you find yourself feeling lost while working through your homework assignments. Not sure if your school already has a program like this one? Try suggesting it to your teacher to see if it's something they would be interested in starting – chances are they'll love the idea.
If you find yourself struggling to make it through your high school math classes, don’t worry, we’ve all been there. It might take a little extra effort, but you’ll be able to make it through. Soon enough you’ll be looking back on your high schools and laughing about how much you hated that awful math class!