Now, maths may seem like the most black and white thing in the entire world: there’s a right answer and a wrong answer, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a right or wrong way to study.
Notes are absolutely essential to one person, and to another it just doesn’t make sense. Spending all that time writing out formulas seems pointless when what really matters is being able to put it into practice on game day.
We had a bit of a roundtable discussion here at Atomi to get the general consensus on maths notes for the HSC.
So what were the results?
1. Notes are like dogs: The best ones look like their owners
As satisfying as the whole “the Board of Studies are turning us into numbers instead of people!” angsty banter is, the best approach is still without a doubt to play to your personal strengths.
All our brains work differently, and your study should reflect that. For some, numbers just make sense. Seeing the logic in a formula and applying it to a practice example can be enough to visually represent a concept, if you’re numerically minded. In this case, quick condensed notes that get to the heart of the topic is for you, partnered with a lot of practice.
Alternatively, numbers may just be a bundle of nothing to you without a worded explanation to prop them up and give some context. In that case, ordered notes with clear written explanations in full sentences to accompany the formula and worked example are the way forth.
To make things interesting and easier to remember, try adding in analogies or random examples of how that concept works in the real world. That’s how we do it in our HSC Hub videos, and we think it adds some much needed comic relief to some pretty dry stuff.
2. Detail = difficulty
No matter how your brain works, the formula alone is never enough. Relying on knowing or recognising the formula is like buying a nice car and leaving it in the garage. It’s a critical part of the process, but it’s not gonna get you where you need to go. For General Maths, the formula sheet they give you in the exam room pretty much makes this step redundant anyway.
So, every formula has to be backed up with a bit of substance - you’ve got to roll those wheels out onto the tarmac.
For more simple sections, a few worked examples and a full sentence explanation might be enough. These easy ones are like going for a cruise down to the corner shop.
For more difficult questions, you may need to kick things up a gear by colour coding tips, using diagrams and writing out common mistakes made in that type of question. This is the speeding-down-a-highway level of study.
So, the amount of detail in your notes has to be equivalent to how difficult YOU find the topic.
3. Practice is Game Time
Now, the holy grail of maths study is without a doubt past papers. But, like many precious resources, our quantity is limited. There are only a finite number of questions in the past papers, so you want to make them count.
There’s two really important ways to make sure of that:
- If you come across a new style of question that you haven’t seen in class or the textbook, add it to your notes, so you’ll be able to detect it and tackle it properly next time it crops up.
- Keep track of every mistake you make. We say this all the time but you might want to have a separate list where you write down the things you’ve got wrong, so you can target them in your study and make sure it doesn’t happen again!
At the end of the day, this practice is the petrol that keeps the car running, so make sure you keep at it throughout the whole year.
So, there’s your game plan. Maths doesn’t have to live on a planet far away from your other subjects. With a straight-forward plan of attack that reflects the way you individually learn, you can feel in complete control, and maybe even enjoy the ride.