Math And English Study Tips

Here is another student with two great questions. One of the answers might just surprise you.

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Hello Marc!

I’m a 16 year old boy from Norway. I have some questions for you, which I hope you can answer.

There are two things that have been bothering me a lot. I am not that good in English, so please excuse me if there are some mistakes in this comment. (Note – I edited a few mistakes, but not many more than most native English speakers would make!)

1) The first question is how I can become better in Math?

Sometimes I’m doing good in this subject. Other times I’m doing bad. It is always up and down. It is weird. Sometimes I can understand a thing and do all the hard “questions”, but the next day I can end up failing on the same questions if there is a test. I feel really embarrassed. I’m going to high school soon and I’m worried about having problems.

2) The second question is how can I improve my English? I want to talk English fluently. Like I want to learn advanced English, if you know what I mean? I’m planning to study abroad when I get older, so I have to improve my English.

I hope you understand what I mean…


How To Improve In Math

Without seeing your math test results, I would guess that you’re memorising math without really understanding the core principles.

The fastest and easiest way to verify if this is true is to find a friend who is not as good as you are in math and teach him or her what you think you know. If he/she understands what you’re saying, then it’s something else. If not, you’ll quickly realise what you don’t know you don’t know.

How To Improve In English

What a lot of people don’t know about me is that French is my mother tongue, native language. I only learned to speak English when I was 7 years of age when my family moved from Montreal, Quebec, Canada to Jamaica. I had no choice, I had to learn English “instantly” – there were no French schools in Jamaica.

That’s when I made a pact with my brother and sister – to NEVER speak French to them and only speak French to our parents (who are both fluently bilingual). To this day, 40+ years later, we STILL don’t speak French to each other – only speaking French to our parents. This is even the case when we’re just family members in the room.

It takes discipline, but it works. You might not be able to do it with your family, but you could find a friend and make that your own pact. The KEY IS TO NEVER BREAK THE CODE. You have to find words and not speak in your native language.

The other way is to use an English spellchecker that will correct your grammar and typographical mistakes. For example, I is always capitalised, never in lower case (i)…

When you get older, you might want to learn OTHER languages since it’s been shown that when you are multi-lingual, learning new languages gets easier. It’s always the first new (second language after your mother tongue) that is the hardest.

Three last suggestions to improve your English skills.

  1. You should try to find English movies with subtitles in English. They are hard to find these days, but are ideal.
  2. You should read as many English books as you can – especially fiction novels since they are much easier to read and conversational in nature. I would STOP reading all fiction books in your native language. At your age, you do enough of that for school.
  3. Learn speed reading. By speed reading, you will acquire a much wider vocabulary and by NOT vocalising the words, you will start to THINK in English instead of translating the words and THEN trying to say them. You can’t be fluent in a language if you are trying to translate WHILE speaking. That takes time and speed reading DECREASES that time by orders of magnitude.

22 Responses to “Math And English Study Tips”

  • Dear Student,
    By profession I am not a maths teacher, but I love it because I think maths is a subject which allows you to see relations among different variables. If you master this trick then every maths problem can be solved. For improving English you have to master vocabulary and it can be mastered by learning the roots and the prefix and the suffix.

    I wish I could directly correspond with you and let you know as to how this can be done. Do not be carried away by mind mapping things. They are of no use in memorising things. I have my own system, much more powerful than mind maps to help you learn things and this technique I developed during my career. If you really want to know then you can contact me.


    • That’s what’s great about comments – people can disagree. MindMapping has been proven to significantly improve memorisation, retention and recall, which is why all accelerated learning centres around the world teach it.

      If you want to succeed, you must follow in the steps of the people who have been successful and can show you the short cuts.

      Onward and upward!

    • Mukund,
      Thanks any help would be greatly appreciated. I can be contacted at
      pansyhayden AT hotmail DOT com

    • Mukund,
      Thanks in advance. Any help you can or would give would be greatly appreciated. Mind Mapping works great for English, History, etc. I’ve been looking for a way to incorporate mind mapping for math and physics problems.

      • MindMapping works to improve grades in all subjects. The key is to capture the essential elements, components and LINK them in a visual manner that makes sense to you. By doing this, you improve your ability to remember (recall) the relationships when it counts – on your next exam or test.

        I have used Mind Mapping in all subjects, it’s just a question of practice and not trying to get it ‘perfect’ every time. ANYTHING more visual than linear notes in a notebook is going to be better than traditional notes.

        It’s a progressive process that starts with your very first graphic or doodle. The more adventurous you allow yourself to be, the better your MindMaps will be!

        Have fun!

  • I learned fluent sign language in college by making a pact with my friends, who were also taking the class to only sign when we were together. Marc is right on! I never would have been able to build my repertoire or speed, accuracy and confidence without it.

    We also practiced songs to help with fluency. That could be a fun exercise for you to practice singing an English song. Find out the meaning of the lyrics you don’t know and then sing it until you are fluent.

    I would also suggest learning the idioms of Americans or whatever country you plan to visit, which will make the learning process more fun. An example of an idiom is instead of saying goodbye, people say: “Catch ya Later”.

    YouTube could be helpful to learn to understand the natural spoken English as apposed to formal English, i.e. “What are you watching on TV” is usually said,”What ya watchin'”.

    If you have Skype you could practice speaking with someone on-line.

    You could write a short essay and then translate into English and see how many words you would not known how to write in English and learn those. Then write another in English and translate it to your language and laugh and learn your mistakes. Just a few ideas using today’s technology.

  • I grew up in Jamaica but I have difficulty writing English. I speak English fairly well but when I am to write, that’s another story. I sometimes get confused with the Jamaica dialect patois. I think I make the most mistakes with verbs, tenses, etc.

    Any helpful tips will be greatly appreciated.

    • Pansy, It’s great to hear from a Jamaican, it brings back wonderful memories of a beautiful country…

      Unfortunately, I don’t teach languages, but the suggestions made by Renee are EXCELLENT. The main theme is that languages require PRACTICE and IMMEDIATE feedback. The only way you can do that is with someone to correct and help you. I suggest you find someone who can do this for YOU and you exchange it for something you can do for THEM.

      I’ve done this often in my personal life – helping someone with a sport, job or skill and they reciprocate with something that I am interested in.

      Keep us posted on your progress!

      “Cha man!”

  • My favorite subject was math because to me it was a challenging puzzle. You knew there was an answer and you knew the rules of the puzzle. Getting the right answer was gratifying to me because I liked the challenge of each new increasingly difficult puzzle and the new types of puzzles as we went from Algebra to Geometry and so on. In math the other thing that helped which was vital in my later bookkeeping career was to ask yourself if your answer makes sense. If I have to work out a problem with small numbers, but I get a huge number as an answer, just asking that question will help me realize that maybe I missed a decimal or did something else that was careless.

    My son hated history as I did in school. I later loved history, but not the dry stuff you have to learn in school. But without that skeleton of the timeline, I would not have been able to appreciate and reference to foundational info that I learned in school all of the truly fascinating historical stuff I now have discovered. My trick to get through boring info that you have no interest in is to force yourself to believe, by repeating an internal mantra, that this is the most fascinating thing that you are reading. In the end you may find that indeed there was a tidbit or two that you were happy to have read about. This was extremely helpful on formalized reading comprehension tests.

    Patsy, as I said above, English speakers have butchered our language. Heck, the Webster dictionary just added, “BFF”, “lol” and another texting shortcut to the dictionary. Most Americans kids are bad at writing English, because it’s taught formally but not used formally even on T.V., and yet they are expected to know how to write formally. My thought to you is to travel back in time via old movies from the 1940’s and books written prior to the 1950’s or read formal non-fiction books like discover magazine. After a while, you may be able to recognize patterns of proper written examples of formal English style and common phrasing etc than you will in more casual writing or conversation. For example, in old movies they say, ” I invited her to join me in a cup of tea at the local cafe.” In casual English, “I asked her to go with me for a cup of tea at the corner tea place.”

    Marc, thank you for your compliment on my suggestions. My response to the mindmapping is that, although I did not know about that when I was young and took normal notes, I now realize that I was doing a form of that in my head. There were no cute graphics, but I used to make visual bubbles in my head and connecting lines and groupings to help me understand what was being learned. I still use it in daily life especially when I have to remember something “on the fly”. For example, if I have to remember a phone number or series of numbers, l mentally group them in smaller pieces that I can discern a sequence or for phone numbers, I position them on the phone key pad and type it in my head so that I remember it more as a relationship/shapes that I have to dial rather than the numbers themselves.

    Thanks also to you Marc for providing a place where we can help each other!

    Sorry for all the typos. I hate typing on my iphone, and get frustrated constantly having to fix my mistypes, (is that a word? Maybe it will be someday) lol!

    (I edited the typos for you – no worries!)

  • Dear Pansy,
    There is no royal road to learning language and that applies to English too. If you wish to learn as to how you should write effectively and coherently then you have to practice a lot.

    Keep aside at least half an hour daily to write on any topic that you like. Then, after a day go through that piece to find out as to what you wrote.

    Think over them to find out whether the write-up expressed your thought. If not edit them. And here you require a good knowledge of grammar.

    If you don’t have them then consult someone who knows grammar. These days, out here in India, students are not taught grammar in school, so I find lot of grammatical mistakes in their writing.

    In English, the most important part is the verb. Try to master them and see the difference. Modern tools may be helpful, but it must be combined with the study of usage and grammar.

    Hope it helps.


  • I re-read Marc’s first response which talked about movies with sub-titles. My TV menu, not the Cable menu, has options for captions. I think it even let’s you choose different languages. I hope that helps.

    In America, I am now learning the names of all types of products in French and Spanish, because they are putting the labels in 3 languages. I may start reading the package instructions and realize it’s not english, but having made this mistake so often, I am beginning to comprehend the non-english versions. Lol

    Verb tense is difficult. Here a basic list as an example.
    Today, I am home,
    Yesterday, I was home,

    Tomorrow, I will go out,am going out, (means: definitely)

    Tomorrow, I may go out, might go out, could go out, (On the first three try to avoid “be going out” i.e. “I may be going out” it’s wordy and not necessary) I am thinking of going out, was thinking of going out, (All of these are examples of no definite decision yet)

    In the past, I have been out.
    Today, I would have gone out but I changed my decision. I could have gone out but did not, I should have gone out but didn’t. “Should have, would have, could have” is a cute American expression for when someone’s says, “I know I should have done that today”. The other person, who doesn’t want to hear any excuses, says, “Should of, could of would of” with impatience in their voice.

    Today I decided to go out ( at first it was not definite but in the earlier part of today, I made my decision , so decide is put into the past tense: decided.

  • Pansy, I apologize for writing your name incorrectly.

    To both of you, Let us know which of all of our suggestions work best for you, and what made other suggestions not very helpful. Also, body language and inflection tells you a great deal about a person’s intended remark.

    When reading, I often don’t know a word that is rarely used in everydqy speech, but I can learn the meaning by just understanding how the context of the paragraph often gives me an expectation of the word or feeling I would expect.

    My funniest experience learning a word was the word “ubiquitous”, which refers to something having a presence everywhere. After I learned it, I kept seeing and hearing it used even on a McDonald’s commercial! I realized then, that this word,”ubiquitous”, that I had never heard before, was indeed a ubiquitous word! Lol

  • Dear Pansy,
    See learning words is not that difficult. In fact, when you have learnt it then you become aware of it and then you start observing it. As you do so, and if you try to learn even the secondary meaning then the finer uses of the word comes naturally to you. Your expression will then improve and so your language. Therefore, the trick is to learn more and more words everyday. I have personally experienced this in my youth that as you learn more, learning more becomes easier maybe this is due to the expansion of your brain power. So keep it up!

  • Dear Dr.Dussault,
    Thanks for commenting on my comments. However, I was just wondering,does our brain lose its capability as we grow old. I am 48 now and sometimes I feel that my former sharpness is waning. Is it psychological or we have what we think we have. Because I have read that even geniuses use only 4% of the brain’s capability. If its so then where does the question of losing it comes to?

    • The most recent research in Neurology (the brain) reveals what I’ve always thought to be the case. The brain is flexible and other than when it’s afflicted by disease or trauma, remains and flexible – AS LONG AS IT IS USED AND CHALLENGED. It’s like any other muscle – if you don’t use it, it will atrophy (decrease in size and capability). Very interesting research reflects that your BELIEF SYSTEM is one of the most powerful forces at play. Simply put, if you THINK you are old, you are or will age more quickly.

      So, THINK and ACT younger and see what happens.

      Anecdotally, as a competitive squash player, I don’t feel like I’m 48. Sure recovery from a tough match is a little harder and takes a little longer, but with proper preparation and a strategy, it’s a non-issue. I feel stronger and fitter than when I was in my 30’s. I often have more endurance than 20 year olds on the court which astonishes me. If they ACT like they’re ‘old’ in their 20’s, what will they be like in their 40’s and 50’s?

      I have had this belief based on the elders in my family who maintained active lifestyles until the very end of their lives. The ones who were not intellectually challenged simply did not fare as well as the proactive and engaged ones.

      So there you have it – you’re only as old as you THINK you are!


  • Dear Marc,
    I am currently a student who is about to take her exams in the forthcoming month. I just wanted to ask you how I can study and review efficiently in that short space of time. The way I review is by memorising my notes. Do you think that this is very helpful? I also want to ask you what you mean by mind-mapping. Is it the same as brainstorming and can you please give me an example? Furthermore, I have been thinking of purchasing your book but I have come across another website which is selling another book. I am confused as to which book I should purchase so can you please give me the pros of buying your book over other books.

    Thank you for writing a book which so many people have benefited from. You didn’t keep your knowledge to yourself but decided to spread it. This shows awesome characteristics. I wish you the best from now on and in the future.

    Thanks in advance.

    • First of all, my product page explains all the advantages of my study book and one of the BONUSES that’s included is how to go from Panic To Passing your next exam. It’s exactly what you need. If you’d like more information on MindMapping To Get Better Grades, click on the hyperlink to watch a short video. My Study book has been sold in more than 37 countries over the past 20 years and comes with a 100% Money-Back Guarantee. Try it out, you have nothing to lose.

      Good luck on your exams coming up!

      I would get started on my strategies as soon as possible BEFORE time runs out… Your exam dates won’t change…. Tock, tock…

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