Did you know that six out of ten students struggle to learn proficiency in mathematics? That is more than half of young learners who need some support. While stereotypes like “practice makes perfect” work for some, there are some proven strategies that produce better results when it comes time to take the test.
Instead of trying to fit students into a cookie-cutter mold, try out these methods for the best ways to revise and see confidence and test scores improve. The bottom line is that hours of study won’t produce better test scores unless the techniques are effective.
Working with a partner can motivate you to work harder, but it can also be a double-edged sword. This strategy only works if you choose a partner that is focused on revising. When you spend time with another student, you are subconsciously matching your motivation to theirs. This subtle competitive drive can help both students work harder at revising, committing more learning to long-term memory.
In addition to a stronger work ethic, partnerships build foundational collaboration skills. Students who can learn to work together will eventually become employees who can work in teams and individuals who can build strong, healthy relationships.
The old-school flashcard method is a tried and true way to learn material. It is thought that practicing active recall by repetitively testing your brain strengthens neural connections. And since taking a test involves a lot of recall, your brain is already in the habit of retrieving information and can readily access learned information. The repetition also boosts learner confidence, serving as a counterbalance for test-related anxiety that might hurt scores.
The practice of spacing is directly opposite to the way that most students engage in learning. Instead of breezing through classes and learning content once followed by intense cramming before an exam, spacing focuses on bite-size revisions over a period of time. Spacing is particularly effective for revising mathematics, producing measurable results in terms of higher test scores.
The bottom line on using spacing as an effective strategy when revising mathematics is that students retain more when they revise for one hour per day over seven days compared to revising for seven hours in one day.
Most academic courses are structured by grouping similar topics together in units. Interleaving is essentially the opposite of this approach. In mathematics, interleaving would involve mixing the practice of different problems together. This technique helps break down the context that material is learned in, which improves critical thinking skills and helps students apply different techniques to solve problems.
Students who employ these methods of revision tend to perform somewhere between 10% and 30% better on tests. While some revision methods like working with a study buddy and practicing retrieval with flashcards are well-known methods, others are in direct contrast to common practices. For example, studies suggest that spacing may work better than cramming, and interleaving may work better than blocking.