Rekindling your relationship with Maths

I’ve heard learners say that they used to love Maths in primary school or in earlier grades, but all that has changed and they don’t like the subject anymore. Some even say that they now hate Maths.

I believe one’s relationship with Maths is much like a relationship with a friend. Let’s paint a picture of this scenario.

Say you meet someone and instinctively like him or her. You spend some time together and realise that you actually have a lot in common. You then spend more and more time together and have loads of fun. By doing so, your relationship grows and you get to know each other quite well. You might even become best friends. Then, one day, your friend does something that really disappoints or annoys you. In fact, you might be so disappointed or annoyed with your friend that you don’t want to see him or her anymore. You might even start hanging out with other friends and spend less and less time with your best friend. And then, one day, you realise that you’ve lost contact with your friend and hardly seem to know him or her anymore.

At this stage, you have two options: You can either turn your back on this friendship and walk away forever or try again and give your friendship another chance. The first step of trying again is to focus on all the good stuff about your friend that appealed to you when you first met. Think of everything you have in common and all the good times you had together. The second step is to rekindle the friendship between you two by spending time with each other again, like in the old days. You initially got to know everything about each other by spending time together, and this led to you realising how much you have in common. You wouldn’t have become friends if you hadn’t spent time with each other, would you? At the moment, it might feel as if your friend has become a stranger, but be patient. Remember what good friends you were just a while ago. It is worthwhile to spend time with him or her and rediscover the foundation of your friendship.

It’s exactly the same with Maths. If you’ve liked Maths in primary school or in earlier grades, you probably liked doing your Maths homework and it most likely wasn’t too much of a hassle to do extra exercises before a test or an exam. In other words, you didn’t find it difficult to spend time with Maths. You probably quite enjoyed spending time with Maths.

Then something changed. It could be that you didn’t quite understand the way your Maths teacher explained new work, or you might have written a difficult test for which you got way less than you’d expected, or you might have missed a class or two when the teacher explained more difficult work, and now you’re feeling lost. Suddenly, Maths feels like a stranger. You find the work difficult. Your Maths homework is a constant struggle and you hate doing it. In fact, you often don’t even do it anymore and frequently borrow a classmate’s exercise book to hastily copy his or her homework before class. Ultimately, your test results suffer, which makes you feel even more lost and frustrated, and this makes you dislike Maths more and more. You might even feel that Maths has betrayed you – the sneaky little bastard.

At this stage, just as in any relationship with a friend, you have two options:

  • You can give up. You can walk away from Maths and swap this subject for Mathematical Literacy, or you can just totter along until you’ve reached the end of Grade 12, or:
  • You can give your relationship with Maths another chance.

How? Firstly, think about the things you liked about Maths in the past. Was it the fact that you liked working with numbers, or perhaps the fact that Maths didn’t involve studying pages and pages of learning material, as in Geography or Biology, for example? What made you enjoy Maths in the past? Was it the fact that you never had any trouble understanding the work and that you actually found it quite easy?

Remember, even though you might be in a higher grade now, Maths is still Maths. It’s not more difficult than before, and you are just as intelligent as before. If you are suddenly struggling with Maths, it just means that you’ve stumbled across an obstacle or two. (In some cases, it might even feel as if you’ve encountered an entire obstacle course.) All you have to do is climb over this obstacle (or complete the obstacle course) to get your relationship with Maths back on track.

This brings me to the second step of giving Maths another chance: Spend time with Maths. In fact, spend a lot more extra time with Maths. Find that spark again.

Once again, how?

Do your homework every day. Seek help from your teacher or a friend whenever you don’t understand something. Don’t wait – seek help immediately, before the teacher moves on to new work.

Go back and work through previous chapters to make sure that you are up to date with all the previous work the teacher has covered. (Yes, this will probably need to be done over weekends.) Your school textbook might be quite daunting, so I’d recommend getting yourself a copy of Maths 4 Africa’s most helpful, learner-friendly study guides. These guides are absolutely great for self-study as they are easy to understand and provide worked examples with helpful tips and clear directions. Everything you need to know is in there and it won’t even take long to work through these chapters. These study guides really make self-study quick, easy and painless.

Do extra exercises besides your homework. In fact, make it your mission to do every single Math problem in your textbook before the year is through.

If you feel that this is not enough and you are still struggling to cope, take extra Maths classes. Find someone who appeals to you, whom you find easy to understand and who will help you rediscover the fun in Maths.

Whatever you do, spend time with Maths until you feel comfortable around the subject again – until you feel you’ve got your old friend back.