High school maths is an essential part of every student’s education and can be a gateway to further studies in mathematics and related fields. Unfortunately, it can also be a source of frustration for many students who struggle with the subject and make common mistakes.
To help you get the most out of your high school studies, I believe that it is important to understand the most common mistakes students make in high school maths and how you can avoid making the same mistakes.
Read on to find out the most common mistakes students make in high school math and how to avoid them. You might also enjoy reading: 22 Famous Mathematicians and Their Contributions.
1- Misunderstanding the Problem
After several years of teaching, I found that the biggest mistake that students make when tackling any maths problem is misunderstanding what is being asked of them.
Misunderstanding maths problems can manifest in different ways; some students may simply not read the question properly before starting to work on it, while others may try to answer questions that aren’t actually being asked.
I believe that it is important that you take your time as a student when reading and understanding problems, as it will help ensure that you are working on the right thing from the start.
2- Not Showing Their Work
Many maths problems require multiple steps in order to arrive at an answer, and I believe it is important that you show your work whenever possible.
I found that it will not only help demonstrate how you arrived at an answer, which can be useful for both teachers and fellow classmates, but it also allows them (and anyone else looking) to identify potential mistakes more easily.
In addition, I also found that taking notes as you work through a problem can help with this by allowing you to keep track of your thinking process more easily.
3- Not Double-Checking Your Answers
Another common mistake students make in high school math is not double-checking their answers, which is crucial when completing any kind of math problem, even if you think you got it right.
The truth is that nothing can replace thoroughness; if you don’t double-check your answer, then there could have been errors during one or more steps of solving the problem that went unnoticed until now.
Taking even just a few moments to double-check your answers after finishing any kind of exercise can save you time in the long run by preventing potential mistakes from slipping through the cracks.
4- Not Paying Attention in Class
It is easy to zone out during a math class when you don’t understand the material or if you think the instructor is going too quickly. I always tell my students that it is important to pay attention in class, or else they may miss something that could be crucial later on.
If you are having trouble understanding a concept, I encourage you not to be afraid to raise your hand and ask questions so that you fully comprehend it.
I believe that it is better to take a few minutes now to make sure you understand than spend hours later trying to figure it out by yourself.
5- Focusing Too Much on Memorization
I found that some students focus too much on memorizing formulas and equations rather than understanding the underlying concepts behind them.
The truth is that too much memorization will not help you with problem-solving because it won’t give you an understanding of how and why things work.
Instead, I encourage you to strive for an understanding of why certain solutions work instead of just rote memorization. Understanding essential math concepts will help give you insight into mathematical problems that go beyond simple recall of facts.
6- Making Careless Mistakes
Careless mistakes happen when students rush through problems without paying attention to detail or double-checking their work before submitting it.
To avoid making careless mistakes, I encourage you to take your time with each problem and double-check your answer once finished.
You can also use calculators or computer programs as tools but don’t rely solely on them as they can still produce incorrect results if used incorrectly or if inputted data is wrong.
7- Forgetting Units, Decimal Points, or Significant Figures
After you complete each question, I encourage you to ensure that you write it to the correct units, degree of accuracy, forgetting, or significant figures.
If the questions do not mention how many decimal points your answer should be written to, I suggest you do not round it.
Unfortunately, you can lose a mark if you incorrectly round your answer. And the good news is that if you don’t round it when you don’t have to, you will not lose any marks.
8- Mixing Up Radians And Degrees
Unless a question specifically asks for your answer in radians or degrees, use the one you are the most comfortable with, but ensure you remain consistent.
I also recommend you always check your calculator to ensure it is in the correct mode when doing geometry-related questions.
9- Unreadable Handwriting
Unreadable handwriting is also among the common mistakes students make in high school maths, and I found that this can easily be avoided.
I encourage you to take your time and write correctly and clearly. Generally, when we are in a hurry, our handwriting tends to be less readable, which could lead to an incorrect answer.
10- Using The Wrong Formula
Many students make the mistake of using the wrong formula, and I see this often happening with my students.
For example, when doing calculus many students get confused with the different and many differentiation rules.
The best way to avoid using the wrong formula is by doing a lot of practice questions, as it will deepen your understanding of applying the appropriate formula.
11- Using The Wrong Operational Sign
Another mistake most high school students must correct is using the wrong operational sign. Generally, I found that most students forget the rule of integers.
For example, a negative integer added to a negative integer will yield a negative integer. Also, a positive integer added to a negative integer will become the sign of whichever integer has the highest value.
What to read next:
- 11 Best YouTube Channels to Help You Ace Your GCSE Maths Exam.
- Is 60% Good For Maths? (Not really, let’s find out why!)
- 9 Best YouTube Channels to Learn Calculus.
- 9 Benefits of Participating in Math Competitions.
Nobody’s perfect; everyone makes mistakes when learning math in high school! But I believe with some effort, these common mistakes students make in high school maths can be avoided by paying close attention in class, taking your time with each problem, focusing more on comprehension than memorization, and double-checking your work before submission.
I believe that doing so will improve your confidence in maths not only for exams but also for real-world applications as well, making high school maths less daunting than it first appears.
Hopefully, these 11 tips help ensure that you stay on track while studying maths and avoid making simple mistakes along the way.