Evolve Education Sydney 

How to Study: Mathematics

Like any subject, studying for mathematics presents unique challenges. Rote memorising formulae and methods, while helpful, is not enough to ensure success in maths. Below we share some simple tips as to how best to study for maths. 

1. Avoid cramming! Mathematics is a subject that rewards genuine understanding. Try to study regularly, completing set questions and corresponding exam questions as you go through topics. The work is divided for you to make it easier to master the content as it comes. Cramming is stressful and leads to lower retention rates come final exams. While many subjects require memorisation and recall of information, mathematics demands the application of the ideas you learn. They must be practiced. Although there are many set methods for solving math problems, each question is unique and often must be solved in a slightly different way to another problem. This is especially prevalent in more advanced mathematics. 

2. Attempt a diverse range of problems. Studying regularly and studying effectively are very different things, but hand in hand will see you achieve your goals. Reading a textbook or notes to familiarise yourself with content, even if it is every day, will not properly equip you with the skills you need to correctly tackle more complex problems. This is not to say that reading notes isn't a good starting point for learning new content, but it cannot stand alone. 

One of the largest challenges in maths is not applying methods you have learned but identifying which methods are best suited when faced with a problem. An example is a quadratic equation, which can be solved a number of ways. Through repeated exposure to quadratics, and experience in solving quadratics, students will be able to quickly identify which method is appropriate for a given problem.

3. Rework incorrect questions
. Erasers aren’t for people who make mistakes, but for those who wish to correct them! You’re probably tired of hearing it, but the easiest way to ensure self-improvement is to learn from your mistakes. To do so, you must understand where you went wrong and what line of thinking brought you there in order to prevent it from reoccurring. Its also important to not give up on a problem too early- always attempt the question before checking the back of the textbook as this can result in a reliance on working backward from the answer. 

If you are struggling, revise your notes and attempt a simpler version of the problem. If this doesn't help, you can speak to a peer, ask your teacher (or a tutor) for help, or seek online resources if you need an alternative explanation that resonates with you. We recommend Khan Academy (https://www.khanacademy.org/) and MathPays (https://www.youtube.com/user/mathspays/videos)/. Eddy Woo also has fantastic YouTube videos with worked solutions and explanations, particularly for more complex mathematics problems https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCq0EGvLTyy-LLT1oUSO_0FQ. 

4. Focus on your weaknesses. It is very common to study for subjects you are already confident in because you tend to enjoy them more. However, it is crucial to acknowledge your weaknesses and focus on building them into your biggest strengths. Most maths exams cover multiple topics, and in our experience tutoring, we have found that many students tend to focus their study on the topics they enjoy most, and are best at. It is important to break this habit and to tackle weaknesses before refreshing easier content. We have found that a good way of doing this is by listing all topics in a test and rating them from 1-5 in terms of how comfortable you feel doing it. After this, organise your study to prioritise the tougher content, ensuring that when the test arrives you are comfortable with all topics. 

5. Do practice exams
. Once you are feeling confident in the topics in an exam, it's important to practice your skills under test conditions. As well as providing pressure to work fast and efficiently, exam conditions also prohibit checking answers, which means you must adapt and find ways to check your working. You’ll find that the more you familiarise yourself with exam-style questions, the more confident you become, the less time each problem takes you to solve, and the less stressful it all seems. The harder you work, the luckier you become — exam questions will begin to feel like they “suit you when it is really just a result of expanding your mathematical toolbox.  

Written by Sally Evans who completed Extension Mathematics in the HSC and is currently undertaking a Bachelor of Science and Advanced Medical Science at the University of Sydney where she continues to hone her love for maths. For tutoring with Sally or any of our other tutors please contact us at 0422991843 or at evolveeducationsydney@gmail.com.

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Work Smarter - Not Harder 

An all too common and easy assumption made about studying is that the longer time you study for, the more you will learn and the more your overall results will subsequently improve. However, it's often the case that students will feel cheated when they study for 5 hours for an exam and a peer who only studied for 2 hours achieves a higher mark. 

The question must then be asked: Why do we measure our level of work according to an amount of time when time clearly has no correlation to the effectiveness of our studying? 

The fact is that 2 hours of distraction-free study, with the right focus and outcomes in mind, can lead to a better understanding than 10 hours of study with an unfocused mind. How then, can the time spent studying, be made most effective? 

1. Healthy Body = Healthy Mind

Especially as students reach the last few years of their education, it can become extremely difficult to ensure a balance between the many elements of their life, however, it is more crucial than ever in these years to maintain a balance.  Ensuring to sleep for at least 8 hours each night is crucial, especially depending on age. Students should find time for exercise every week and maintain a healthy diet. Especially minimising sugar intake, specifically before and during study periods. 

It is also important to retain a work-life balance between studying and other past times. Social lives do not have to be entirely sacrificed for the sake of study. In fact, it is beneficial to both academic performance and mental wellbeing to maintain this balance as friends are often instrumental in providing support in times of stress and contribute to a healthy, happy and positive state of mind.

By student taking care of their bodies, and making sure that they are healthy and happy, the mind is able to maintain greater focus during study periods. As students begin to see their results improving through implementing this healthy work-life balance, studying becomes a more enjoyable experience and instills personal motivation and incentive for students to work harder to achieve their best. 

2. Set S.M.A.R.T Goals: 

Students should make a list of the things aimed to do in a day of study, in order of priority. Consider breaking large tasks down into smaller manageable parts. Aims for a day should adhere to the principle of S.M.A.R.T goals:

1. Specific
2. Measurable
3. Achievable
4. Relevant
5. Time-based

This means that students can hold themselves accountable for the work that is completed, ensuring they are being effective and efficient. An example of a S.M.A.R.T goal is "complete questions 1-6 in chapter 3". A goal without the S.M.A.R.T criteria, such as "do 2 hours of maths", or "revise algebra", can make it harder for students to achieve what they have set out to do. Goals of this kind are vague, causing students to spend excess time deciding what is to be done, rather than doing it. 

3. Remove distractions: 

Students should ensure their workspace is clean and free of distractions (putting phones in another room). Computers should only be used if needed, and if necessary, should only be used to access what is needed. If students are struggling to stay off Facebook and/or other distractions, they should consider installing an app such as Cold Turkey (https://getcoldturkey.com/ ) that will help to keep away distractions during study periods. 

4. Take Regular Breaks & Reward Yourself: 

The brain fatigues quickly. For the average student who has not practiced good study habits, approximately 30 minutes of uninterrupted study can lead to the brain being half as effective as it was when the student began studying. Over an hour or more of studying without breaks can lead to the brain being anywhere between 10% and 0% effective. 

By taking regular breaks the brain is rewarded for the study. It associates the study with the reward and therefore is more likely to focus on the work at hand, enhancing retention and understanding. 

To put this into practice, students should follow these steps: 

  • Set a timer for 25 minutes and work. 
  • When the timer goes off, take a 5-minute break. Return to your desk and repeat the process. 
  • Once you've completed all the work you have to or every 3-4 hours, take a longer more rewarding break.
  • As you practice this, you will become more able to focus for longer amounts of time, and you can build up the time between breaks. After a couple of weeks at 25 minutes, try 30 minutes. Within a couple of months, you should be able to achieve productive study for about an hour without breaks. 

Do something today that your future self will thank you for. Remember, working smarter doesn't excuse you from working hard. You can organise the perfect study timetable, stay positive, and take regular breaks, but it won't count for anything unless you put in the necessary effort. Nothing can be done without personal motivation.   

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Who we are 

Our Beginnings 

Evolve Education is a private tutoring company made by students for students. While undertaking our studies at school, we noticed that many of those who had been tutored from year 7 were struggling to work on their own merit when it became necessary in Years 11 and 12. It was clear that students had become reliant on tutors to not only guide them in the right direction but to do the work for them. We believe that by pursuing this option, students and their parents secure their own downfall. Although they may receive good marks, many of these students fall apart when it comes to certain aspects of their further education and professional life, lacking the critical thinking skills necessary to solve problems on their own. Notwithstanding this, we recognise the need for tutors to help develop these skills, however, we believe that the current methods employed are not efficient in achieving the best outcomes for our students. 

What we Offer

 By taking a lifelong learning approach to education, focusing on the development of skills, we have flipped the traditional idea of the classroom on its head. Dictating information to students robs them of the opportunity to learn. Not only does the personal discovery of information increase the rate of retention, but it also develops research and inquiry skills. We believe in questioning and challenging our students on answers to their questions. Students will be expected to evaluate what they have learnt in order to form their own opinion, and will then be expected to defend it using evidence. They shouldn't just be told that something is right. They should know why it is right, and how we have come to determine that answer. This process of debating and questioning leads to the development of critical thinking skills and enriches self-belief and confidence. 

In addition, our program also instils the attitudes essential to academic and professional achievement. The process of critical thinking and subsequent self-belief and confidence will lead to greater commitment to education on behalf of the student. Our tutors aim to inspire their students, motivating them to achieve the best they can through dedication to their study, while also upholding the importance of a balanced lifestyle.

 In short, we aim to make the tutor redundant by equipping our students with the correct skills and attitudes that will enable them to become independent in their studies.  

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