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Math comes naturally to some students—but not all. So when test time rolls around, many students struggle with studying effectively to get the mark they want.

Studying for a math test looks a lot different than studying for other kinds of tests. Math is not an easy subject and many students struggle with it, especially as they start learning more complex concepts in middle school and high school. But even younger students can have a hard time with it.

Learning the best way to study for a math test is an important step toward your child being able to tackle math class (and exams) with more confidence.

Be Proactive About Studying For A Math Exam

The number one tip for studying for math tests: avoid cramming! Cramming is not a good way to study for a math test. If that’s how your child usually studies, you may not be seeing very good results. That’s because trying to learn so much information in a short amount of time overloads the brain—so information isn’t properly retained.

Math is a complex subject—and that makes studying for math tests and exams more complex as well. Studying efficiently and consistently is the best way to achieve better results on math tests.

Why studying for math is different:

  • Unique vocabulary
  • Hard-to-remember formulas
  • Not everyone is wired for math

There are some similarities with studying other subjects, like memorization, practice, and good note-taking. But for many students, studying math is a whole different equation that needs a more proactive and thorough approach.

The Best Ways To Study For A Math Exam

  1. Make a formula sheet
  2. The older your child is, the more formulas will be used so it’s important to have a place to keep track of them. Take a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. On one side write the formula, on the other side describe what the formula solves for and an example or two.

  3. Compile definitions
  4. When your child first begins the new chapter, there may be some new vocabulary they don’t understand. Have them make a glossary of terms and outline definitions to refer back to if they get lost. Keep these definitions ready for when it’s time to review before the final exam.

  5. Read ahead of the class
  6. Keep a copy of the class syllabus handy and get your child to start reading ahead to the next chapter. If they have a general understanding of what’s coming next they can better prepare. Have them list out things they don’t understand and need clarification on to bring to class when the teacher starts on the new chapter.

  7. Participate in class
  8. Active learning is incredibly important and even more so in math class. Your child needs to actively participate in class discussions or at least actively listen and take thorough notes. If your child is shy in a public setting, participation can take the form of asking the teacher questions one-on-one as well.

  9. Practice at home
  10. If your child doesn’t understand something in class it can cause them a lot of anxiety, including the fear of ridicule from their peers. Have them practice at home where they are free to make mistakes in a safe environment.

  11. Write out the steps
  12. Knowing the steps to solving a math problem is vital. While your child is practicing at home, have them write out each step they are taking to get the answer to the problem. For example, if it’s algebra, have them write what they’re doing to solve an equation using BEDMAS order of operations. This will solidify their understanding of the process and make it easier to recall during the test.

  13. Re-copy notes for recall
  14. Studies have shown that writing notes out by hand and re-writing them helps students remember information more effectively. Have your child spend time rewriting and organizing their notes to improve comprehension and information recall before the test.

  15. Teach others
  16. Teaching the material to peers can help your child learn and study more effectively. It’s something called the “protégé effect” where the brain switches to learning with the intent of teaching the material to someone else. Have your child study the topic and teach it to you or one of their friends when they’re done. Make sure to ask them questions to help them work through things they might not understand yet.

  17. Kick Bad Study Habits
  18. Studying in busy places, listening to distracting music, or general procrastination are bad study habits that need to be addressed. Once your child starts shifting to good study practices, studying for math tests will be a little easier. Observe your child or have them reflect on their current study practices and determine what changes need to be made.

How To Study For A Math Test The Day Before

If your child has been proactive about studying, then they should be almost ready for the test or exam. The day before the test should be used to review and practice while working on memorizing the vocabulary depending on the type of math the test is covering.

Review Vocabulary & Formulas

Have your child refer back to the list of vocabulary, definitions, and formulas they made when they first started studying and read them out loud as well as write them out again. This will help the brain process the information through multiple senses which will help them remember if they get stuck during the test.

Write Formulas On The Test Immediately

The day before, your child should review and rewrite the formulas as well again for the brain to process them. Then, when your child gets to class the day of the test, write out all the required formulas on their test to free up brain space and have the formulas handy.

Everyone Learns Math Differently

Almost everyone has struggled with math at some point in their life but if your child seems to really struggle, consider enlisting outside help. It could be another student, meeting with the teacher outside of class time, or hiring a tutor.

If you think a tutor would be beneficial to your child, our qualified and experienced tutors are ready to help with all parts of the K-12 math curriculum. Find a tutor near you to book a free assessment and see if Scholars is right for you!


Dr. Danielle, PhD


May 8, 2020