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How to stop making stupid mistakes

  1. Jan 13, 2007 #1
    I just came home from a local math league, and I completely let my team down by making a mistake on what is quite possibly the easiest problem I've ever seen, even in junior high (we're in high school): Find the sum of all multiples of 9 less than 50.

    I thought, for some reason, that 54<50. :cry: :cry: :cry: :cry:

    Anybody have any advice for people like me?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 13, 2007 #2


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    Homework Helper

    It happens. Exercise and learn how to concentrate. :wink:
  4. Jan 13, 2007 #3


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    Get used to making a plan before you proceed. If you separate the process into a planning phase and an execution phase, it'll allow you to concentrate on avoiding silly execution mistakes.
  5. Jan 13, 2007 #4
    meh, how about 6*4=32. I remembered I made that mistake on AMC 12
  6. Jan 13, 2007 #5


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    Yea. Think before you act :rofl:

    Dont sweat it. These kind of things will happen to everyone at some point in their life.
  7. Jan 13, 2007 #6


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    "measure twice, cut once"
  8. Jan 13, 2007 #7
    I added 3 to 18 and got 22 in a final at Berkeley 25 yrs ago -I'm still pissed. Happens - passed the course, got a job.
  9. Jan 13, 2007 #8
    I once did 2.5 + 2.5 = 4.5 a few years ago.
  10. Jan 13, 2007 #9
    It happened to me all the time; just write down the information from the problem once onto the paper, then double-check it and let it sink in. I find that helps cut down on the mistakes.
  11. Jan 14, 2007 #10
    Take your time. Ensure that you understand the problem and always make sure your answer is reasonable!
  12. Jan 14, 2007 #11
    I often times make extremely silly mistakes when working with integers. Elementary arithmatic is the bane of my existence. :P
  13. Jan 14, 2007 #12
    I went down a full letter grade on my last math quiz because it said to list the angles from least to greatest and i had the right answer but i put it in greatest to least
  14. Jan 15, 2007 #13
    Check each problem you do several times and the problem may go away on its own. About two years ago, I was making a ton of silly mistakes like that on tests in math. I started checking each part of each question once or twice to ensure it was correct. On top of that, I wasn't trying to think ahead of what my hand was writing too often... I haven't made such a mistake in a really long time now.
  15. Jan 15, 2007 #14
    hey, i once factored 8... = 4... x 4... (... represents some variables) & spent the last 1/2 hor of my exam trying to find the mistake. i found it 5 mins from the end, but it was 2 late 2 correct anything.:cry:
    again,quite often i tend 2 make mistaes in copying down terms/numbers in questions and end up wasting a LOT of time on such questions....
    the list goes on ....abt how i took limits of ((e^x +1)/x) instead of ((e^x -1))
    this is frustrating....:mad:
    but then u gotta b determined 2 do better next time.i guess there's not much we can do abt this. but i guess practice might help.
    all da best........hope u find a soln......tell me if u do:smile:
  16. Jan 15, 2007 #15
    Work on problems that are less trivial, so that the competition is based on skill rather than robot-like perfection.

    They should call it arithmetic-league.
  17. Jan 15, 2007 #16
    This is good advice. Thank you :cool:

    The other problems were less trivial. That was the easiest problem there, and the most likely person to be doing would be someone in grade 10.
  18. Jan 17, 2007 #17


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    Either pump out hundreds of past papers (Make sure your so comfortable with the work you don't get nurves) or make sure you come to the exam fresh (ie Not Tired) and use your time effectively. There is no sure fire method to stop all stupid mistakes, but you can help yourself spot your errors by being on top of your game.
  19. Jan 17, 2007 #18
    Work on trying to increase your attention span.
    If you're like me who switches channels quickly, read an article and then realize you didn't understand because you were thinking about something else, then there's a problem with your attention. Try reading novels. Try to focus on what you're doing. Try keeping everything else out of your mind, don't day dream, don't think about other stuff, and focus on what you're doing. try to calm yourself before doing something and remain calm.
    That'll make you more focused.
  20. Jan 17, 2007 #19
    Write out in words precisely what it is you're doing as you do it. One line of writing, one line of working. Justify even the most basic mathematics. It feels tedious but actually doesn't take long and gives you a good feeling that you've done things thoroughly and neatly. It's also easier to mark :)
  21. Jan 17, 2007 #20


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    Unfortunately, the timed format of something like a math-league forces one to try to rush through answers, especially on the apparently easier questions, rather than taking time to check and double check. Rushing through your work lends itself to mistakes. Experience of making those mistakes is what eventually teaches you to go back through your work and check for trivial errors like that, and to know where to look for such trivial errors (the bane of my existence back in my undergrad days seemed to be adding 3+3=9, or multiplying 3*3=6 :rolleyes: ...lose points for that a few times and you start skimming your answers for the simple addition and multiplication mistakes, just like you proofread essays for missing punctuation before turning it in).
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