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Etiqueta: Math Myths

Can You Ace GRE Quant if You’re Bad at Math? (Part 3)

Manhattan Prep GRE Blog - Can You Ace GRE Quant if You're Bad at Math? (Part 3) by Chelsey Cooley

If you have a complicated relationship with math, you need to be especially careful about how you study. Some GRE Quant study techniques might seem to make perfect sense, but can actually leave you frustrated and demoralized in the long run. For painless studying, try these next few ideas instead.

(If you’re just joining us now, check out the previous two articles in this series before you keep reading. In the first one, we dispel the “bad at math” myth. In the second, we go over some simple approaches to gain momentum and learn the basics.)  

The When and Why of GRE Quant Rules

Part of the “bad at math” mindset is the feeling that math is sort of like magic. When you watch an expert solve a math problem, it’s like watching someone pull a rabbit out of a hat: you can see what’s happening, but you don’t know what they actually did.   

That’s compounded by the way that a lot of us learn math in school. Unless you had great elementary school math teachers, you probably learned math as a long list of rules and operations. You probably spent a lot of time learning to apply each rule correctly, and much less time learning when to use each rule.

So, if you took a test on multiplication in elementary school, you’d pass as long as you multiplied the numbers correctly. That doesn’t work on GRE Quant. To ‘pass’ the GRE, you have to not only multiply correctly, you have to decide whether to multiply in the first place.

That’s a skill that you won’t get from memorizing rules. You also won’t get there by drilling one problem type over and over until you can perform it perfectly, then moving on to the next one. If you don’t also know the “when and why,” the real test will seem much harder than your practice sessions.

So, what can you do? My first piece of advice is to create “when I see this, do this” flashcards. Those are discussed in detail here. Every time you do a GRE Quant problem, try to spot clues that you could use in other problems. Then, identify what you’re supposed to do when you notice one of those clues. Put those two things on the front and back of a flashcard, and keep it handy. Periodically, go through all of these flashcards and test your “what to do next” knowledge.

Second, regularly set aside time to do random sets of actual GRE Quant problems. This is more and more important the closer you get to test day. It forces you to not only solve the problems, but also figure out what they’re testing in the first place, and what approach to take. Instead of just skimming through your mental cheat sheet on a single topic, you have to choose from among everything you know about GRE Quant. That’s not something that comes naturally, but it will improve if you start practicing it!

Take GRE Quant Step by Step

Think of your GRE Quant knowledge as a jigsaw puzzle. Each time you learn a new fact or skill, someone hands you a new puzzle piece. If you already have the surrounding pieces in place, it’ll be easy to fit the new one in. But if you’re just getting started, and someone hands you a random piece from the middle of the puzzle, it’s almost impossible to decide where it goes.

Don’t start your GRE Quant studies by picking random pieces from the middle of the puzzle. Start with the corners and the edges: the math foundations. Check out the previous article for a list of starting places and some ideas on how to approach them.   

From there, aim to “push your GRE Quant score up from below,” rather than “dragging it up from above.” You’ll gain more points by really mastering the easy or moderate problems than you will by conquering the very hardest problems—and this will take less of your limited study time and build your confidence as well. Spend a little more of your time on the problems that are just a bit too hard for you—the ones where you have all of the surrounding puzzle pieces in place, but you haven’t quite placed the very last one. And avoid wasting time on the very toughest problems, unless those are really the only ones that are challenging for you.

It may seem satisfying to continue drilling one topic until you’re comfortable with it, but this can also lead to frustration when it doesn’t work out. Worse, it’s a poor strategy for memory formation. You’re better off moving around the jigsaw puzzle, changing which bit you’re working on in order to stay fresh. (This means that even if you’re spending almost all of your study time on GRE Quant, a little work on Verbal can be good for both your morale and your score.)

It’s fine to not understand things, to make mistakes, and to get problems wrong, even all the way up until test day. Focus on learning the material that’s most within your grasp right now, and learning it in the most efficient and effective way you can. Why not check out GRE Interact to get started? 📝


See that “SUBSCRIBE” button in the top right corner? Click on it to receive all our GRE blog updates straight to your inbox!


Chelsey CooleyChelsey Cooley Manhattan Prep GRE Instructor is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in Seattle, Washington. Chelsey always followed her heart when it came to her education. Luckily, her heart led her straight to the perfect background for GMAT and GRE teaching: she has undergraduate degrees in mathematics and history, a master’s degree in linguistics, a 790 on the GMAT, and a perfect 170Q/170V on the GRE. Check out Chelsey’s upcoming GRE prep offerings here.

The post Can You Ace GRE Quant if You’re Bad at Math? (Part 3) appeared first on GRE.

Fuente https://www.manhattanprep.com

Can You Ace GRE Quant if You’re Bad at Math? (Part 2)

Manhattan Prep GRE Blog - Can You Ace GRE Quant if You're Bad at Math? (Part 2) by Chelsey Cooley

You’re here because you’re bad at math, and you want to ace GRE Quant but aren’t sure how. But if you read the previous article, you know that you weren’t born without a “math organ,” and your brain is just as suitable for learning GRE Quant as anybody else’s. That doesn’t mean you don’t have challenges to overcome. But you should really be asking, How can I ace the GRE with limited math experience? Or How can I ace the GRE when I don’t know how to study math? Or even How can I get over my math anxiety and get excited about the GRE?

Don’t Panic

There’s a lot of common sense involved in solving GRE Quant problems. If the price of a couch is marked up by 15%, it shouldn’t end up costing $180,000. If you want to know how many eighth-graders are in a classroom, you shouldn’t end up with 2/3 of a student. But when you let math anxiety get the better of you, it’s easy to lose that common sense.

When you start a GRE Quant problem, take a deep breath. This reduces anxiety—and gives your brain some oxygen. Read the problem slowly and calmly. Don’t immediately start asking yourself which equations to use. When you start trying to do the math immediately, you stop trying to understand the story the problem is telling you.

It’s okay to slow down at the beginning of a GRE Quant problem. On the GRE, you don’t run out of time because you read math problems too carefully! You run out of time because you don’t understand the problem, but you try to solve it anyway.

If you struggle with math anxiety—and a lot of people do!—you probably won’t fix it by studying more. Actually, things tend to work the opposite way: studying and practice will be far more effective if you reduce your math anxiety first. Staying calm makes you better at GRE Quant, not the other way around. Here’s another article with some great tips for reducing test anxiety.

Don’t Go from Zero to a Hundred

One huge study mistake I see from “bad at math” students is this: you choose one topic, say, solving linear equations. You drill away at that topic during a killer multi-hour study session, or even over a period of days. You watch videos, read articles, and do practice problems. When you’re finished, you’re exhausted, but confident that you totally understand how to solve an equation. So, you move on to the next topic.

Then you see a linear equation on your practice GRE a week later, and you get it wrong.

The study style described above is called “blocking.” I’ll be the first to admit that there’s something satisfying about it. It’s nice to feel like you’re finally done with a topic that’s challenged you for a long time. But your brain hates it.

This analogy might be a little crude, but just work with me: teaching yourself GRE Quant is a little bit like training a dog. If you want your dog to learn to sit, you start when it’s calm and relaxed, and you don’t try to get it to master the trick in a single marathon session. Instead, you interleave, which is what you should do when you study basic math.

Here’s a great rundown on interleaving. (The article is from our GMAT blog, but everything there applies to the GRE as well!)

In short, give yourself permission to walk away without 100% mastering something. In the long run, that’s actually better for your brain.

Where Should You Start on GRE Quant?

Some math-phobes get along just fine in our 8-week GRE course. If you have a lot of time to devote to the GRE, and you’re confident that you’ll pick up the basics quickly—for instance, if you always did well in math in school, but you’ve gotten rusty—go ahead and dive in!

However, if you’re weak on the math foundations, you might struggle to get as much as possible out of the course and the homework. Consider starting with something like Khan Academy, which has great videos and problem sets on all of the topics covered on the GRE. Good math topics to start with:

  • Working with fractions, decimals, percents, and ratios
  • Writing, simplifying, and solving basic equations
  • Working with equations that have exponents or quadratics
  • Knowing some basic statistics definitions: average, median, range, quartile, and standard deviation
  • Basic geometry formulas, dealing with circles, triangles, squares, and rectangles

You could even begin with the Foundations of GMAT Math Strategy Guide: it’s written for GMAT students, but the content heavily overlaps with what’s on GRE Quant, and the book is a fantastic guide to math basics for adults.

Also, start developing your “math instincts” as soon as you can. You get a calculator on the GRE, but the more confident you are with numbers, the better. Take every opportunity to do simple math or estimation: guess the number of people in a large auditorium, or calculate your tip at dinner in your head, or estimate how much it’ll cost to fill your car up with gas at a certain price. Try out some arithmetic games, like this one. Download the Manhattan Prep GRE app, and start getting in the habit of thinking about math every day.

Next time, we’ll take a deeper look at how to study GRE Quant. You may have been studying inefficiently for your whole life! That could have a lot to do with why you aren’t a math expert—and with a few simple changes, you can start becoming one. 📝


See that “SUBSCRIBE” button in the top right corner? Click on it to receive all our GRE blog updates straight to your inbox!


Chelsey CooleyChelsey Cooley Manhattan Prep GRE Instructor is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in Seattle, Washington. Chelsey always followed her heart when it came to her education. Luckily, her heart led her straight to the perfect background for GMAT and GRE teaching: she has undergraduate degrees in mathematics and history, a master’s degree in linguistics, a 790 on the GMAT, and a perfect 170Q/170V on the GRE. Check out Chelsey’s upcoming GRE prep offerings here.

The post Can You Ace GRE Quant if You’re Bad at Math? (Part 2) appeared first on GRE.

Fuente https://www.manhattanprep.com

Can You Ace GRE Quant if You’re Bad at Math? (Part 1)

Manhattan Prep GRE Blog - Can You Ace GRE Quant if You're Bad at Math? (Part 1) by Chelsey Cooley

First, let’s get on the same page about what being “bad at math” really means. In my experience, GRE students who say that they’re bad at math tend to fall into these categories:

  1. People who don’t think math is interesting or fun.
  2. People who got bad grades in math as kids—or people who got good grades, but had to work harder than everybody else.
  3. People to whom math doesn’t feel natural or intuitive.
  4. People who feel anxious about math.

Instead of saying that you aren’t a math person, get specific. Which one of those groups describes you? Or, like many of my GRE students, do you fall into more than one of those categories? The more clearly you can describe the challenge you’re facing, the more power you have over it.

People Who Don’t Think Math is Interesting or Fun

It’s fine to think that math is boring—I think Reading Comprehension is soul-crushingly boring, and I’ve managed to make a career out of teaching the GRE. Learning to enjoy the GRE will make studying more fun, but I’ve also had a lot of successful students who thought of studying for the GRE as a boring but worthwhile job—or even as an annoying obstacle.

People Who Got Bad Grades in Math as Kids

As an adult learning middle-school and high-school math for the GRE, you’re in a strange position. You’re studying things that you once learned in grade-school math class. But you’re learning them from a totally different perspective: you’re smarter, more introspective, and have access to better resources. Getting bad grades in math as a kid says a lot about your middle-school math teacher, a little about your childhood level of patience and study skills, and not much at all about your “math aptitude.”

People to Whom Math Doesn’t Feel Natural or Intuitive

The idea that math should come naturally (or not at all!) is one of the nastiest myths in modern education. Math isn’t natural, and it isn’t intuitive. There’s actually a lot of evidence—which we’ll look at later in this article—that there’s no such thing as a “math person,” at least when it comes to GRE-level math.

Most people are more or less equally equipped to learn GRE math. But some people start the GRE process with more math experience, some people start out with more math confidence, and some people start out with both. Those people who seem to “get it” right away? It’s more likely that they’re just a little more familiar with the material than you are. Maybe they use math every day in their work; maybe they had a fantastic middle-school algebra teacher.

Think about it: when teachers and parents decide that a student is “good at math,” what do they do? They give them more and harder math to work on, creating a self-perpetuating cycle. Some people end up getting a lot of positive and varied experiences with math, which strengthens their abilities even further. The rest of us fall behind and focus on other topics.

People Who Feel Anxious about Math

A lot of us have had negative experiences with bad math teachers, bad grades, or seemingly impossible math problems. More of my students seem to have math anxiety than, say, “vocabulary anxiety”—probably because of the pervasive myth that some people are doomed to suck at math. Hopefully, by examining and rejecting that myth, you’ll find your anxiety being replaced by determination. Keep reading!

Bad at Math: The Evidence

This is the point where you stop saying that you’re “bad at math.” The language you use to describe yourself, even in your own head, makes a difference. It’s fine to say that you’re scared of math, or that you dislike math, or that you haven’t taken a math class in fifteen years, or that you absolutely hated your eighth-grade Algebra teacher. Those are facts! “Bad at math,” though, is a myth—here’s some evidence to prove that.

Here’s a chart summarizing the math performance of 15-year-olds around the world in 2012. If high-school math was always intuitive for some of us, and counterintuitive for others, we’d expect to see similar rates of high- and low-performers regardless of location. But the chart makes it clear that some ways of teaching and learning make almost everybody “good at math,” while other ways work for almost nobody. (So, why not sign up for GRE Math in a Day?)

There’s a common misconception, although fortunately it’s becoming less common as time goes on, that girls are naturally more likely to be bad at math than boys. But there are strong arguments to be made that this gap is completely explained by other factors, and when some of those factors are mitigated—as in single-sex schools—the gap begins to disappear.  

Twin studies have tried to determine whether mathematical ability is genetic. Here’s a study that leans more towards the “bad at math” side than what we’ve looked at so far. On the one hand, it suggests that genetics makes a “moderate” contribution to math ability at age 10. On the other hand, differences in mathematical ability due to social factors tend to be smaller for elementary school students than for older students—it’s possible that with older students, the pattern would change.

Finally, here’s one of my favorite articles addressing the “bad at math” issue. It contains a great description of where the “bad at math” myth comes from, and it’s worth a read just for that. It also introduces the idea that your beliefs about math influence how well you perform. People who believe that math ability can be improved, will improve! People who believe that they’re stuck where they are, won’t.

So, as you start or continue your GRE Quant studies, strive to convince yourself that you can get better at math. That belief alone may be enough to improve your performance. And remember that while you may feel anxious towards math or may dislike math, that won’t stop you from improving your Quant score. Want to know how to get better at Quant when you’re math-phobic? That’s coming up in the next article. 📝


See that “SUBSCRIBE” button in the top right corner? Click on it to receive all our GRE blog updates straight to your inbox!


Chelsey CooleyChelsey Cooley Manhattan Prep GRE Instructor is a Manhattan Prep instructor based in Seattle, Washington. Chelsey always followed her heart when it came to her education. Luckily, her heart led her straight to the perfect background for GMAT and GRE teaching: she has undergraduate degrees in mathematics and history, a master’s degree in linguistics, a 790 on the GMAT, and a perfect 170Q/170V on the GRE. Check out Chelsey’s upcoming GRE prep offerings here.

The post Can You Ace GRE Quant if You’re Bad at Math? (Part 1) appeared first on GRE.

Fuente https://www.manhattanprep.com