I have been a fan of Mathematics since forever. It must have been something in the water at home. After all, not only my mother, aunt and sisters are Mathematics teachers – my grandmother had also been one!
Maths and languages were my favourite subjects at school and after a brief career as a physiotherapist, I returned to my first choices: Maths and languages.
I am now a freelance language practitioner by morning and a Mathematics tutor by afternoon, giving extra Maths classes for learners from Grade 4 to 12 in both Malmesbury and Stellenbosch.
Besides being co-author of a Grade 9 Mathematics publication (with my sister Katie Müller, now Van Niekerk) and being co-presenter of Maths 4 Africa’s Early Bird courses for Grade 10 to 12 learners, I’ll be writing the Maths 4 Africa study guides for Grades 8 and 9 in 2018–2019. I really look forward to this project!
But let’s start at the beginning: After finishing school, I obtained a BSc in Physiotherapy and then a Postgraduate Certificate in Education, followed by the degrees HonsBEd and MPhil in Translation and Editing a few years later. In between, I had Mathematics and German as extra subjects at the University of Stellenbosch, just for fun (although my friends still don’t believe I took Maths just for fun – they suspect a hostage situation).
My main wish for learners is for them to enjoy Maths instead of fearing or, heaven forbid, hating the subject. I aim to achieve this by not only boosting their Maths knowledge and skills, but also their self-confidence in this subject. I believe no-one should ever feel that he or she isn’t clever enough to do Maths, because such negative feelings only makes you hate the subject. No! If people can enjoy things like running 42 km or more in scorching heat, or climbing up rocky mountains like spiders in the most severe weather conditions – all in the name of adventure and fun – then we all most certainly can find a way to enjoy good old Maths.
Speaking of which, it is now the month of October, and we all know what this means: Besides Madam Summer approaching with sun block in one hand and an ice cream in the other, and Christmas decorations being dusted off and hung ever so festively in supermarkets, the end of year exams are stealthily creeping up on us.
And what on earth does this have to do with enjoyment? you may ask. Well, quite a lot, actually. Few people actually enjoying studying, but we don’t really have a choice when it comes to exams, do we? We have to study at some point. But we do have a choice between hating every minute of our study time or not.
If you can enjoy at least some aspects of your study time, this will help you develop a more positive attitude towards studying instead of resenting the whole idea. I believe making one’s study time as pleasant as possible can go quite a long way.
Here are a few tips that I myself have been finding useful:
- It you like music, study while listening to music. This works especially well with Maths. Use earphones if you aren’t the only one in the room. Get a nice beat going to get you in the mood!
- After finishing a specific exercise or chapter, or after studying for a certain amount of time, treat yourself by making yourself a nice cup of coffee, tea or hot chocolate (or whatever). Then take your beverage to your desk and continue studying. It might be a good idea to use a cup with a lid. That way your beverage will stay hot for longer, and you will be able to enjoy it for a much longer time.
- Draw up a study timetable for each new day and give yourself regular study breaks. By using a study timetable you’ll be able to ensure that you have enough study time, but you’ll also be able to enjoy your time off more, as you won’t feel guilty about not studying all the time. Besides, regular study breaks will actually improve your productivity.
- Do something you really enjoy during your study breaks. Catch up with friends, either in person or on social media, watch TV or YouTube videos, go for a jog, or do whatever you like. You’ve earned your time off, so enjoy it!
- Put your phone on silent while you’re studying and place it somewhere where you won’t be able to see it all the time. Don’t let it distract you. If you keep glancing at your phone every few minutes, you won’t be able to get any work done. Rather reward yourself with five minutes’ screen time after each hour (or half an hour) of studying and then sit back and enjoy chatting with your friends during this time.
- In winter, make sure you’re warm enough. Use a blanket, a hot water bottle and whatever else you need, but keep yourself warm. No one can even think of enjoying anything when they’re cold. In summer, take a quick cold shower during your study breaks to cool off, or jump in the pool if you are fortunate enough to have one. (But you have to get your hair wet, otherwise a cold shower or a quick swim won’t be nearly as effective as it can be!) Always keep a water bottle close by and drink lots of water.
- Make your study space work for you. Some learners simply can’t work in a messy environment; others actually focus better when everything isn’t that neat and tidy. Find out what works best for you and then go for it!
The bottom line is: I believe you’ll enjoy your study time more if you take time to consider what would actually make it enjoyable for you. But, hey, stick to your timetable and don’t give yourself a “study reward” when you haven’t actually done anything. If you have done your part, though, and it is time for a reward or time off, go big and really enjoy it!