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How do I think more mathematically?

  1. Feb 9, 2008 #1
    I'm trying to figure out how to think more in terms of mathematics rather than going to straight to some formula or equation. I'm a junior in high school and I have a 97 in Pre Calculus so I'm not really having trouble with formulas and equations but I can't really seem to figure out problems that I don't know a specific formula for. I took the ACT today and I think this may have really hurt me on the math part.

    Any tips on how I can become more mathematically inclined? Thanks.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 9, 2008 #2
    Just do lots and lots of problems (ones about problem-solving, not about plugging things into formulas) -- that's how one prepares for things like the SAT or ACT as well.
  4. Feb 9, 2008 #3
    i can relate to you i have a high grade in pre cal to and wen i first took the act i had a 19 i just kept on practicing and now im at a 30 around. its just practicing and timing, try getting a act or sat tutor if you are having difficulties its worth it in thne long run
  5. Feb 9, 2008 #4


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    In one word: ALGEBRA.

    Also study a laboratory science in which you will apply the introductory and intermediate levels of Algebra. If your intermediate course on Algebra includes some exercises on modeling, this can be very helpful in learning to think mathematically.

    Back to the answer, "ALGEBRA"; this is the coursework in which you learn to derive formulas for yourself.
  6. Feb 9, 2008 #5

    Gib Z

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    Another tip - Never set out to memorize a formula or an equation you see. Try to understand what the statement really means, explain it in simpler terms to yourself, know how to prove the statement. I often forget many identities but I remember how to prove them, I quickly prove them on the spot and I get them again. And don't memorize the proof either - just read a proof, several is possible, pick the one you find that makes most sense to you, it you understand what the proof did to achieve that result, you will remember it =]
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2008
  7. Feb 9, 2008 #6
    Memorization will ultimately fail you, and the only suggestion I can give is to try and engage yourself outside of your textbook math. You KNOW when you understand something and when you're just trying to memorize because you're in panic mode. I have developed over the years to reject not being able to understand something, and it drives me nuts when I can't because my memory sucks! Just an example of questions you might come across that I think help out mathematical thinking if you do enough of: Prove n^3-n is divisible by 3 (or the more difficult prove n^5-n is divisible by 5). I won't give you the answer, but there are all sorts of random problems out there.

    I get some minimal practice by answering questions on this website! You never know what kind of weird questions people will ask that are thought provoking.
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2008
  8. Feb 10, 2008 #7
  9. Feb 10, 2008 #8
    I'm doing exponential modeling in pre cal right now and surpising enough, I think I may really understand it.

    And thanks Edgardo for that link.
  10. Feb 10, 2008 #9
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