Tricky Ninja Skills For Whopping Math

Sound familiar?
Cashier – “Thank you, your change is $6.85”
You – “Can you give me a $10 instead?” (While handing him an additional $3.15)
Cashier – FML.

(Between us… I do secretly enjoy watching the cashier squirm trigging to figure out what just happened).

Seriously though, how the hell did America get so bad at math?! When it comes to blowing up a fly on the back side of a cow on the other side of the world we’re the undisputed champion, but when it comes to math we’re in an embarrassing 31st place.

What do you expect when we focus so much attention on prepping for a test over mastering basic problem solving and critical thinking skills? Having tutored in high school and college I realized that the vast majority of people struggled due to a weak foundation, a sloppy work style, and thinking the calculator will somehow make them an Einstein. Relying on a calculator to tell you 12 X 7 = 84 is like relying on crutches while training for a marathon. Good luck with that.

Having a solid grasp on basic math skills will help throughout your life. I’m not delusional, I know you probably won’t be doing algebra everyday, but developing a problem solving/critical thinking mind that’ll help you methodically attack and conquer problems is priceless.

So where do we start? Easy! Start with the basics. Go to YouTube and find Khan Academy (best thing ever, no joke), and, if I may suggest, start with this video on adding fractions. (Trust me, knowing how to handle fractions is critical.) Pay close attention to how neatly they work and to how they don’t do a bunch of mental math, showing their work instead, which helps eliminate simple mistakes. Once you understand the lesson, graduate to the next video. If you’re lost, take a step back. Repeat till you have the basic concepts under control.

(VISUALIZE COOL FLOW CHART HERE)

If you’re doing homework, and the section is kicking your butt then take a deep breath and start at the beginning of the section and actually read the book. Study the examples. Practice. Practice. Practice. Don’t just do the homework problems; do as many problems as you can in the section until you grasp the technique needed to deal with that specific problem. If you’re not in a math class then follow the Khan Academy videos with a paper and pencil and then Google similar math problems and solve them until it’s as easy as cracking sunflower seeds!

Then what? Be an active participant in the math that affects your everyday life. Calculate your change at the store before the till does. Calculate your ETA (estimated time of arrival) based on the distance and speed (ETA = distance/speed). Get into the habit of budgeting. That’s addition and subtraction right there (plus, more money in your savings account!).

The thought of practicing math problems might make you queasy, but just think of how amazing it will feel once you conquer your nemesis! Those that take the time to improve and grow will always rule those who spend said time subjecting their poor brain cells to a slow death of stagnation. Math is like weightlifting for your brain. Now get up and give me some (mental) pushups!

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