A holistic approach to learning MATH

Math Tutoring

Tips for a Perfect Score on SAT Math (2)

Dr. Dan’s Corner”,

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The trend of over-emphasizing the importance of “strategy” in test preparation is dangerous in that it shifts attention from the fundamental attitude that is required in math preparation – the realization that there is no substitute for the need to acquire the knowledge and skills that are essential in problem solving.

In addition, there’s too much (printed) advice on “strategy” for SAT preparation that is based on pseudo/quasi-scientific methodologies and techniques such as “how to guess right,” “how to solve [mostly multiple-choice] problems using trial and error,” and similar tropes.

We must refrain ourselves from under-appreciating the value of factual knowledge (given the fact that average and above-the-average students are not expected to have significant gaps in their math background) and thus grasp the true meaning of Einstein’s words: “The value of education…is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think.”

When talking about “analytic/critical thinking” skills, one should think of the glue that keeps together our body of knowledge and the catalyst that gives us the ability to put it to use in solving (math) problems. These are the skills that students need to improve when they haven’t been able to solve a problem and yet possess the same theoretical background as someone who has been able to solve it. The solution did not require a “magic” formula or, for the matter, any factual knowledge with which the students were not familiar. “How come I didn’t see it!” seems to be a typical reaction.

How to improve such skills? Anyone – or even better – any combination of the following should be a good start:

• spend more time trying to solve word problems, i.e., problems that typically require translation of English to a math language (e.g., algebra)

• find and solve more open-ended problems

• take a more inquisitive approach to what’s happening in your world (i.e., try to better understand other people’s rationale and/or opinions, ask questions, think in terms of “cause” and “effect” )

• read books.

Last but not least, it’s never too late to enjoy and appreciate the value of mind/logic games.