- Follow your interests and needs. Subjects you care about are more likely to be the ones you stick with as you teach yourself. If, for example, you’re working on reducing your credit card debt, start learning about how interest functions.
- Get a study buddy. Like any other subject, math is easier and more fun when you can check your work with a friend. In fact, “learning by teaching” is a highly effective method of educating yourself.
- Remember you’re not being graded. There’s also no test you have to pass. If you get frustrated, step away. Try a different problem or apply your approach to another question and see if you hit the same cul-de-sac.
- Limit the stakes of your work. It’s easy to stress out when you’re trying to solve an important problem. Sticking with the credit card example, don’t practice by trying to calculate your next payment while you’re planning your next month’s budget. Instead, wait until you’ve already paid and work in reverse, using your payment, fees, and interest to figure out how your credit card company calculated your minimum payment.
- Look up unfamiliar words and concepts. Feel free to even set aside what you’re working on to explore them more thoroughly. Many mathematical concepts tie into one another—geometry is the foundation of algebra, for example, so learning one helps reinforce the other.
- Try another teacher. If you don’t understand something at first, look for an alternate explanation or tutorial, or do what the Breaking Math team recommends: Write a how-to for yourself, step by step, and see where you’re having trouble. That way you can look for the exact question you have and solve it quicker.
- Keep practicality in mind. If you’re mostly doing math around financial matters, for example, it makes sense to round numbers off at two decimal places. Just remember that different industries have slightly different rules—bankers, for example, use banker’s rounding, which rounds up or down from the penny.
- Don’t do it all in your head. You don’t need to impress anyone. If you need to write stuff down, do it.