Steps to Working Out a Math Problem – or Steps to Loving Math!

Remember that you do not need to hate math! 

Taking a proactive approach, you can conquer any math question. shield-108065_640

Below are several steps to get you on the right path. 

Steps to Working Out a Math Problem

  1.  What does the question ask me to do? 
  2. Are there any further directions for the question? (Look above, to the left, to the right)
  3. Are there any practice examples that show the steps?
  4. Do I have notes about this particular section? 
  5. What do I already know about this math section? (Take the time to re-learn the parts you have forgotten.  For example, if you need to divide fractions for part of the question, and you have forgotten how to do this, go back and re-teach yourself.) 
  6. Try different methods to solve the problem – don’t be afraid to turn the problem around and look at it from different angles. 
  7. Break the problem down into separate units. (I.e., What do I need to do first – second – etc.?) 
  8. If you are using a calculator, record the steps as you go.  (It is very frustrating to start back at step 1 when something goes wrong with step 5!) 
  9. Check to see if your answer “makes sense.” (Is the number reasonable or is it too large or too small?  Does your answer meet the requirements of the problem?) 

In step 8, I mentioned a calculator, and using one is fine (if you are permitted to), but trycalculator-2391810_640 to keep doing a few questions long-hand as well.  It uses the brain differently for basic skills.  You will gain a much stronger understanding of “how” the math works.  Of course there are complex calculations for which the calculator is required. 

Always “think” about the math.  Often people see math as strictly numbers and forget that those symbols and operations have a purpose in real life! 

You might simply need a total for a grocery list. 

You might need to calculate whether or not you can afford a new car or how long it will take to pay off the mortgage under various scenarios. 

Of course, if you are an engineer or architect – or want to be – there are all kinds of mathematical calculations that will determine outcomes for your next bridge or building. 

Math is used in so many careers and so many “real-life” situations that it should not be seen as mere numbers. 

Do not fear math any more.  Jump in, follow the steps above, and keep at it.  

I know you can master the skills you need. 

As always, if you need help, I am available. 



This week’s video:  Steps to Loving Math!


Make the Most of Your Homework Time & Reduce the Pain.

I get a lot of questions from my in-person students and on Quora about how to make the most of homework time and how to reduce the pain!

Some students are interested in getting better grades and are willing to do almost anything to get them.

Others are interested in reducing the pain and want something easy to make that happen.

These two goals are not as disparate as they might seem at first glance.

If you use good study skills and develop habits that will serve you well, then the pain is mitigated and the learning can truly begin.  magic

Sometimes, students are not happy with my answers because there is no magic.  In other words, there is  not a secret “trick” that you can do that will suddenly make homework as fun as pony rides (assuming you have no morbid fear of ponies) and that will insert you with the intelligence quotient of an Einstein.


The tips are basic.  Most of them have been known for thousands of years!  What!  Even when the Internet didn’t exist – or smart phones – or apps – or herbs and vitamins to boost the brain?  YES!

Simple is often still the best route.  Some of the additional benefits of technology can help (or hurt) and maybe (big maybe) some vitamins and herbs can boost your brain – but you still need the foundation.

The tips are basic.

They work!

BE QUIET!       emoticon-25532_640

Sorry, I got carried away there.  But really, find a quiet location, if possible.  It is much easier to focus when distractions are reduced.  Turn off the T.V. – no smartphone (no dumb phone either) – no music* – no internet chat – no Sloppy Joes over your textbook / keyboard –  etc. Focus on one task.

                        * Music can be used to block out other annoying sounds, but is should be at a level that does not interfere with your focus – preferably without lyrics so that you don’t start singing along!

Read.  Read, and read, and read ….  I cannot stress enough how important it is to read as much as you can, and re-read for more comprehension.  You never capture everything on the first read of a substantial text.  You need to look over it several times. Read supplemental material as well.  Go beyond the minimum!

Write.  Write out notes.  Draw diagrams, create charts, pictures, graphs – anything that will help you remember.  Write on flashcards – especially useful for terms & definitions, but they can be used for all kinds of study.  Write a journal. Really?  Yes, writing down your thoughts can help you review your day and your network of knowledge.  so keep on writing, preferably handwriting.  Writing or printing by hand engages different parts of your brain.  People – and yes even young people – retain more information when they have physically written out notes compared to typing them.

Study.  I don’t mean look over your notes once, or three times, or one-hundred times.  I mean study.  Close the book, look away from the screen, stop listening to the lecture recording, and ask yourself if you can answer questions without looking or listening.  If you don’t know the answers without reading them in front of you, then you don’t know the material!  Self-testing (or you can use a buddy) is one of the best methods (not to mention the most overlooked and underused method) to prepare yourself.  Don’t cheat yourself by thinking that you know something without ever testing this hypothesis.

Be kind to yourself.  Reward yourself when you have done a good job.  Recognize the value of working hard but also the value in working smart.  Make sure you get a good night’s sleep.cup-1010909_640  Catnaps are good, too, if they are brief.  (Catnaps might be a misnomer.  Don’t sleep like your cat for sixteen hours a day!)  Make sure you eat healthy meals – small and numerous is best to keep your body (brain is included) performing at a steady rate.  Don’t let yourself off the hook!  Wait – I thought you said to be kind to yourself?  Yes, sometimes kindness = toughness.  You need to be honest with yourself – no cheating – no lapsing on scheduled homework time – no excuses.  The reward you get later is the kindness component.

Making the most of homework time:

If you are focused and using solid study strategies during your homework time, you will retain far more information; gain more knowledge; and do better on quizzes, tests, and exams.  You will be working smart which is at least as important as working hard.

Reducing the pain:

If you are focused and using solid study strategies during your homework time, you will begin to find the material is learned faster and better.  You might even be studying for less time and getting more out of it – reducing the “pain.”   You know the value of your efforts, so the pain factor starts to become less noticeable even during the sessions.

These are very broad strokes on how to make the most of homework time AND reduce the pain.

Try these discount coupons for a more involved look.

Study Skills – Become an A+ Student

Test & Exam Strategies

Of course, for a more personal touch – check out the website, and contact me.  I can set up personalized programs that will help you, or your child, reach your goals. Boy books



Video:  Make the Most of Your Homework Time & Reduce the Pain






You Be the Teacher – You Be the Student!

You Be the Teacher – You Be the Student!


You can be both a teacher and a learner at any age, and you can do so at the same time.

What do I mean by this?

When you are trying to learn something, put yourself into the teacher’s role.  Pretend that you are teaching yourself.  Alternatively, you can pretend that you are teaching an learn-1996845_640imaginary classmate.  (Suggestion – pick someone you like!)

Use this method during your homework sessions to help you remember information.

This method is not only good for retaining information, but it will also help you learn how to explain concepts, plots for stories, themes, terms, etc.  When the test or exam, or even a pop quiz, arrives, you will have already had practice explaining in your own words – and you will remember!

Teaching others – even imaginary others – is a great gift to you.

You have probably already had this experience.

Have you ever taught a child, parent, sibling, or friend how to ride a bike, play a board game or video game, read, dance, play a sport and so on.  child-558798_640

I bet you have.

Remember that teaching (or learning) is not all about academic subjects.  In fact, you have many learning experiences long before you ever get to school.  Parents, grandparents, siblings, and other family members are your first “teachers.”  They help to get you sitting up, to turn babbling into single words, to stand, and to walk.  Many of the things you learned before you went to school were also learned – at least in part – with you being your own teacher.  Practice, practice, correction, practice, practice, tweaking a bit, practice, practice – mastery!  (Of course, the practice, corrections, and tweaking usually go on much longer.) There is a lot of trial and error learning going on right from the very beginning of your life.

You have probably taught yourself many things since then, particularly anything that you are very interested in doing.

The fact that you might not be completely enthralled with learning algebra, or history, or science, does not negate the fact that you can be your own teacher during practice sessions. Giving yourself permission to take over both roles will enhance the learning experience, make it much more interesting, help you remember, and may even make you a little more understanding and empathetic toward the classroom teacher who is trying to help you gain the knowledge.

So, give it a try during your next homework session.  Be the one to answer the questions as always, but try being the one who asks the questions as well.  Practice being the one who encourages you to learn, who directs you to the right pages, who points out the important bits, even the one who is stern when you go astray.


I know you will be increasing your learning by a substantial amount!

If you need more encouragement or direction, I am always willing to help.julia-raasch-143428


Or – if you want to get started right away:  Sign up here!

This weeks Video: You Be the Teacher – You Be the Student

Studying for an Exam


Tips for Doing Well on Exams

Test yourself before the examination.

You should practise the information you have been learning. You may work in a group, but make sure the group isn’t just a social gathering in which very little “study” is accomplished.
By self-testing you will be able to monitor how well you have mastered the material. It is much better to find out what you don’t know before the exam. You will have time to brush up on weak areas or information you have forgotten.

Find out as much as you can about the exam.

  • What kind of exam will it be: multiple choice, true/false, short answer, essay?
  • What material will be on the exam?
  • What is the relative importance of different topics on the exam?
  • What is the time limit for the exam?
  • If the teacher doesn’t automatically give you this information, ask him/her. Usually teachers are receptive to students who want to know how to prepare.

Try to predict what might be stressed on the exam.
If the teacher has stressed certain areas in class, these are probably going to be on the exam and likely to count for more marks.

Learn the teacher’s testing habits.
Looking back at a teacher’s previous tests and exams will give you an idea of his/her general format and the kinds of questions he/she usually asks.
Some teachers tend to look for details while others look for the “big picture” or general themes and ideas – knowing what a teacher is looking for can reduce the amount of preparation time, but – even better – can increase the accuracy of your preparation.

During review, ask yourself questions you think might be on the test.
If you have used SQ3R and solid note-taking tips, you will know the key points and major ideas of the course. With some practice, you will be able to predict many of the questions that will actually be on the test. Preparing to answer these questions beforehand will put you miles ahead – answering the same or similar questions on the exam will be easy!!

Prepare for the type of test questions you expect.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle before the test.
• get a good night’s sleep
• eat breakfast (if the exam is in the afternoon – eat lunch)
Your mind will work better if you take care of your body.  They are not exclusively separate entities.

If you really must cram for the exam, do it intelligently.
Pick out the most important parts of your notes or text for study.
Scan and survey for general information.
Note: Try to break yourself of this habit of procrastination and cramming for next time – use the tools you have at your disposal now to schedule and follow through with a PLAN to reach goals.

Be anti-social right before an exam.
Do not discuss the exam with other nervous students just before the exam.  This will make you second-guess yourself and increase anxiety.

Becoming “Test-Wise”

These strategies help you to work smarter not harder.

Making it or breaking it in the first five minutes.
• Put your name on the test papers or answer sheets.
• Read and understand the general directions.
• Don’t skip over the directions – listen to instructor’s additional directions (if any) – underline any key words in the directions.

Do you need to answer all of the questions or is there a choice?
How are you supposed to record my answers? – pencil, pen, on the test sheet / separate sheet or booklet – special pencil for computer scoring?

Survey the entire test.
• How many questions are there?
• How many pages, and are they all there?
• Are their different weights given to different sections or questions? (Knowing this will help you divide your time appropriately –giving more time to the heavily weighted sections.)
Jot down initial thoughts.
As you survey, you may want to jot down key terms or ideas that pop into your mind. You will be able to use them in your more thorough answer later.

Plan how you will spend your time during the exam.
Portion out your time according to the worth of different exam sections.

REMEMBER: Always leave a few minutes at the end to review your work and ensure you haven’t made any silly mistakes – especially important for essay type answers.  You might be surprised at what you find!

If you need further information on any of the topics here or more study tips, please contact me.

Come join me for some personal tutoring, online lessons, more study tips, or sign on to the mailing list at:

L.T.L. Tutoring Central

Let’s Keep Learning!


Skype:  tutoringcentral