Common Math Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Math Home Tuition Agency SIngapore

We have all been there at one point in time, where we were so confident with our abilities in the subject of Mathematics and were sure to get high marks. And yet, fate pulls one over us and we end up with a score smaller than our estimates. We review our test papers and lo and behold: your test paper was filled with careless mistakes that caused your score to plummet from good to average.

This is a common phenomenon as solving Math problems tends to have a lot of minor details that can make your answers incorrect once you overlook them or are too careless. Listed below are a few of the common mistakes that students encounter when answering Math related problems and how to avoid them. There are also a few extra tips on how to get better at Math as well, so if you are interested, then continue reading the article for more info.

Common reasons

Before we list down what went wrong, it is important to first determine why you were wrong in the first place. Supposed you are a master of the topic and have top-notch calculation abilities, here are a few reasons why your scores were not as you expected:

• Carelessness

The first and most common reason is carelessness. This often occurs due to the fact that the time given to you in order for you answer the exam is limited so you have to maximize the usage of your time in order to finish answering all of the questions. You often have little time to be careful, unless you are some sort of Math wizard where you only take 15 seconds to solve a problem.

Carelessness is unavoidable when you barely have enough time to finish answering all of the questions in your answer sheet. However, in the event that you do have extra time before it is time to submit your answer sheets, do make sure to go over your answers to avoid any careless mistakes like a missing negative sign or using an incorrect sign.

• Lack of focus

Another reason for the mistakes you made is that you may have lacked focus while answering the exam. It is no surprise that the pressure of scoring high to please your parents will make you uneasy and nervous while answering exams, but don’t let it get to you enough that you end up not being able to focus on the exam. Lack of focus can also be accompanied by carelessness to make you lose even more points.

So be sure to psych yourself up before the exam starts and acid any distracting thoughts while you are answering your Mathematics exam. This can help you focus better and avoid any possible mistakes you might make while answering your exam.

Common mistakes and how to avoid them

Now that we have identified why your scores were not as high as you expected them, it is rather easy to identify the common mistakes you might encounter and how to avoid them.

1. Writing down incorrect variables

One of the common mistakes you might encounter while taking a Math test is writing down the wrong variables. This could happen when the problem states that the variable to be used was 27% but you wrote 21% instead and continued to use that variable all throughout the problem. This can also be applied to calculators as well, given that the numerical buttons for calculators often are too close to each other and it is quite possible to punch down the wrong numerical value.

This error is often a product of carelessness and can often make you lose one point or more from your total score. This is easily avoidable by being careful with the variables you write and being mindful of what you write.

2. Using the wrong units

Using the wrong units is often the product of carelessness at the last minute. Often times, when solving an equation, you would often leave out the units for later to save you some time. However, this could cause you to forget adding the correct unit or use an incorrect one. This could also apply when the given unit is in kilograms, however the problem asks for the answer to be in grams and you forgot to convert your final answer.

Again these errors can be avoided by being more careful about your calculations in order for you to avoid making miniscule mistakes that could lead to a wrong answer.

3. Unreadable handwriting

If the exam requires you to write down the answer yourself instead of just choosing from a group of choices prepared by the administration, then the chances that this will occur will increase greatly. When in a hurry, our handwriting tends to be less legible when compared to when we are not in a hurry, and as a result, this could often lead to an incorrect answer.

Think about how zeros (000) could look like sixes (666) when written in a hurry or how seven “7” will sometimes be confused with the number one “1”. Unless the error made was after the decimal point and within the margin of error (you can consider yourself lucky when you experience this), these errors would lead you to a point or more deducted from your score. This is another product of carelessness and can be avoided by being careful about your calculations. And if you are wondering how you can be careful in your calculations while still finishing the exam in time, then we recommend that you finish the article to find out how.  

4. Wrong operational sign used

Another error you will often encounter which can make your scores go from exceptional to average is the use of incorrect operational signs. The most common of these errors would be forgetting the rule of integers where a negative integer added with a negative integer will yield to a negative integer as well and a positive integer added to a negative integer will yield to the sign of whichever integer has the highest value.

This can often be tricky to deal with and get your head around especially when you are in a state of panic because you have less than 5 minutes to finish five problems. I think you already know how to avoid this which is to be more careful, right? Good student!

5. Reading the problem incorrectly

The last most common mistake you can do which may lower your scores is reading the problem incorrectly. This time it is not just because you were careless in answering the problem, but also because the problem may have been designed to be a trick question.

This is a common strategy for teachers to include a few trick questions in their exams to make sure that the students truly understand the topic. You can avoid this by understanding the problem fully and making sure that you are solving for what is asked.

Extra tips to avoid mistakes in Math

The tips listed above are all about being careful and only offer short term prevention from committing the same mistake again. Listed below are ways you can avoid making mistakes in Math in the long term and can also help make you a better Math student.

1. Identify where you went wrong

First and foremost, you must be aware of where you made mistakes. Identifying where you went wrong can often make you more aware of which part of the topic you are having trouble with and which parts you are often confused with. You can figure this out by looking at previous exam results and try to find a common theme of where you went wrong.

Were you weak at word problems? Are you having trouble with quadratic equations? Or are you confused with the difference between a hyperbola and a parabola? By determining where you are weak, you can then allocate time at home to study these topics and become better at them, ultimately making you less prone to making the same mistakes again.

2. Be more focused

As discussed earlier, lack of focus is often one of the causes why you commit mistakes. And that is something you should work on. Being focused will allow you to make less careless mistakes than you would if you were not focused. It also allows you to think more rationally and make you less likely to fall for trick questions in the exam. You can be more focused by remaining calm and following the guide here in this article.

3. Study on previous tests

Another way you can make fewer mistakes when answering Math problems is by studying up on previous tests. Most big examinations have a few minor quizzes or tests which occur before them. You can then use these to your advantage by making these quizzes serve as your study material.

If you cannot find any previous tests to study upon, you can always look at the internet for help. There are a lot of sites which have ready-made mock exam papers for you to answer on your own to train your skills and hone your Math solving abilities. Studying extensively for the exam can help make you more familiar with the topic which in turn can make you solve the problems faster. This will give you enough time during the actual exam to review your answers and look for minor mistakes which could lower your score.

4. Hire a tutor

If you really want to get better at Math and avoid any more mistakes when answering Mathematics exams, then why not consider hiring a private tutor to help you in your studies? A tutor can help you review for your exams better and help make you understand topics you have difficulties with. Plus, a tutor will be able to point out the minor mistakes you often make to make you aware of where you are often making mistakes.

What better place to find a suitable tutor for you than at FamilyTutor, Singapore’s number one home tuition agency with thousands of home and online-based tutors ready to teach you whatever you need in academics. Our tutors are capable of teaching everyone from pre-school up to university level students. We offer tuition on Math, Science, and different languages to make sure all of your needs are met.

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Carelle is a teacher who has been through the ups and downs of the teacher and learner life. She wishes for every learner to gain educational satisfaction that will help embody the people they want to be in the future.

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