Everyone has something that they’re naturally good at. Some of us have a way with words, others have an artistic streak, while many are great with practical tasks. But even though we may find something easy, many more will struggle with it.
One area that many adults do find difficult is numbers. Learning concepts like trigonometry, Pythagoras’ theorem, and simultaneous equations can be enough to put most people off math for life. But in reality, the basic numeracy stuff like addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division are vital elements of everyday life.
When you’re baking, you need to multiply or divide the ingredients depending on how many servings you’re planning to make, and when you’re trying to split the bill in a restaurant, you’ll need to use division.
Don’t be ashamed if you feel like your math skills aren’t up to scratch or you don’t have the same passion for numbers as this UCSD professor. According to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, more than half of Americans suffer from “math anxiety”, pushing them to avoid even trying to get better at this important life skill.
If you’d like to try and get over your math anxiety and get better at basic arithmetic, then try some of these steps.
Find a Learning App
It has never been easier to learn just about any subject you want thanks to the internet and smartphones. Math is no exception either, as there are dozens of great options that you can download for free.
The UK’s British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has an entire arm dedicated to education and through its BBC Skillswise app, you’ll find material on just about every subject. The math part of the app is packed with everything from basic numbers, to understanding shapes and graphs. Much of it is practical too, as it will help you to more accurately measure objects and calculate savings using percentages.
Other great options include the Khan Academy, which offers online lessons, videos, and quizzes on just about every math subject you can think of, and SumQuest which is designed to help improve your mental math ability.
Play Number Games
One of the best ways to learn anything is to do it while having fun, that’s where number-based games come in. Many of the apps listed earlier include specially-designed math games, but there are also plenty of more mainstream games that you can also use to become better and more comfortable with numbers.
Card games are often great options for this. Blackjack requires you to add the values the of cards that you’re dealt and then make a decision to hit or stand based on how close it is to the target of 21 while weighing up the chances of the dealer being able to get closer to it than you.
Scrabble is also a great game for learning addition and multiplication. Although it is predominantly a word game, you need to be able to add your score together and calculate the bonuses you get for placing tiles on certain spaces.
Practice Your Mental Math in Everyday Situations
Once you’re feeling a little more comfortable, a great option is to start using your mental math throughout the day. For example, while you’re shopping, you could try and keep a running total of what you put in the cart and see how close you get when the cashier rings you up.
This will help you get faster at addition and multiplication and won’t take any extra time out of your day.
Practice With Friends
Given that around half of all Americans have some concern about their math skills, it’s likely at least some of your friends are in the same boat. So why not buddy up with someone and learn together.
That way you can help keep each other motivated and you can test each other on the things you’ve just learned.
Even if you don’t have any friends that want to learn, you could still ask them to quiz you or refer any questions you have to them.