Math Strategies for High School Students

Instructor: Sharon Linde
We all use strategies, whether we're aware of them or not. They make us efficient and keep us on track. High school students who use math strategies are smart cookies. Read on to find out how they use them and why it works.

What Are Math Strategies?

Some of you may be scared of the word 'strategies' in the title of this lesson, but don't fret. We use strategies all the time - in fact, you're using reading strategies right now! We also use them when picking the shortest line at a store, using Google instead of an encyclopedia, and fast-forwarding through commercials on a recorded TV program. Math strategies are no different.

A strategy is a method used to make a task easier or help reach a goal. Why use strategies in math? Besides making you a smarty pants, there are a number of good reasons.

Why Use Strategies?

Like we said above, strategies are tools we use to make life easier or reach a goal. We use math strategies because it will lead to a deeper understanding of math concepts. Using strategies also helps us to get better grades on homework, quizzes and tests. And best of all? Using strategies does all that and makes it work with less effort.

That's right! Using math strategies can actually help you to work lighter and smarter. Good reasons, right?

Math Strategies for In Class

Let's take a look at Bruce, a high school student who uses super smart math strategies.

  • Take notes

When Bruce gets to math class, the first thing he does is prepare his notebook for taking notes. Writing down what the teacher says and making notations about the process helps him make sense of learning in a few ways. First, by writing the information down Bruce is making abstract learning visible, which makes his brain remember it later. Also, Bruce is processing information when he takes notes, which will push it into a long-term memory storage system.

  • Work it out

After the teacher explains the lesson and Bruce is assigned some practice problems, he knows it's a good strategy to try to work some problems out himself first. This gives his brain a chance to put new skills together and make sense of the steps involved in solving problems.

Bruce goes back to his notes for guidance, but gives practice exercises several tries before asking for help. He usually finds success using this strategy because his brain is built to figure things out; by stepping through the problem slowly and referencing his notes, he's warming his brain up to new concepts the same way we warm our cars up on a cold morning.

  • Ask questions

Sometimes, though, things just don't make sense to Bruce. Maybe he's daydreaming of football or maybe the teacher's language isn't clicking. When this happens, Bruce knows it's important to ask questions. He knows from experience that letting too much time go by without raising his hand will mean he'll get further behind. Bruce also asks questions if he tries to solve a problem and gets stuck. A teacher will always be glad to explain - probably a little too much!

Math Strategies for Homework

Bruce also uses math strategies when he does his homework. Here are a few things he's learned over the years:

  • Put in the work

There is no secret sauce in math - you have to put in the work to become fluent with skills and concepts. Remember all the hours you spend memorizing your addition and multiplication facts? Yep, that paid off! The same is true for high school math. The work you're doing today means fluency tomorrow.

  • Check your answer

Math is amazing. After working the problem and getting an answer, it's easy to check if the answer is correct; just plug it back in to the original question. How simple is that? For example, if the problem is x + 1 = 6, and you come up with an answer of 7, a quick check will reveal that 7 + 1 is not equal to 6, so you did something wrong. Now go back and fix it!

  • Show your work

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