Study Tips to Find Your Focus and Ace Your Next Math Test
We’ve all asked ourselves the question. We’ve all screamed it at the ceiling, flopped our heads into our hands, scolded our reflections in the mirror after hours of staring at a blank page.
Why can’t I focus?
Well, that’s a pretty loaded question — and it’s one worth sorting out. We’ve got some study tips and ideas, but they’ll be even more effective if you know what’s causing your slump.
Find your procrastination persona to see which study method may work best for you!
#1: The Busy Bee
You might be The Busy Bee if you’ve got a lot going on — so much, in fact, that you’re not sure where to begin. A book report, soccer practice, your sister’s birthday, and a big math test are all looming over your head, and your brain is a blur. Your attention is being pulled in a million different directions, so you feel kind of fuzzy and even a little nervous about getting it all done on time.
If you identify as The Busy Bee, your lack of focus might be caused by a lack of organization. When you’ve got a lot going on, it’s easy to get lost in the chaos; but when you add some order to the equation, you can trust that you’ve planned well enough to devote time and energy to specific tasks.
Study Tip: Time Blocking
Have you ever re-organized a drawer or your backpack so that everything has its own little place, and it’s just so satisfying? That’s kind of what time blocking is like. Essentially, it’s plotting your to-do list to specific blocks of time. You can map out a day, week, or even month at a time!
For example: You know you have a week until your big math test, so you block off 30 minutes in your calendar app to study math every day leading up to the test. You also block off time for essay writing, soccer practice, and gift-shopping.
Now you can visualize your time more clearly! And because you’ve planned everything out, you don’t need to stress about whether or not it’ll all get done — you can confidently focus on one thing at a time.
While working in one of your time blocks, remember to free yourself of distractions like your phone or TV, and focus solely on the task at hand!
#2: The Anxious Agonizer
Math makes you panic. Whether it’s homework, class time, or studying, math gives you sweaty palms, a quickened pulse, and an overwhelming sense of fear. When there’s an equation to solve, you become stress incarnate.
That’s what math anxiety feels like. So, if you’re The Anxious Agonizer, you’re probably avoiding studying (consciously or subconsciously) because it stresses you out. Your body knows what triggers that kind of anxious response, so it’s trying to point your attention anywhere but there.
But it doesn’t have to be like that!
Study Tip: Practice Problems
Okay, this might seem strange if math stresses you out, but trust us: practice is key! Think of it like exposure therapy for math anxiety.
Revisit problems from previous tests or homework assignments and break them down into bite-sized steps. Taking things slow and in smaller pieces can make it a lot less scary. Just give yourself the time and permission to work at your own pace. Plus, the more you deliberately face your fears, the more you’ll empower yourself to conquer them!
#3: Overwhelmed & Overstimulated
You’ve been trying for a while. Your mind is racing a million miles a minute yet headed nowhere in particular. Your eyes are red from staring at the textbook for so long, but your worksheet is still blank. You keep re-reading the same problems, not really registering the information.
If you’re Overwhelmed & Overstimulated, you likely can’t focus because your system is completely overloaded. It’s great to give it your all, but you also can’t strongarm your senses into taking in more than your brain can handle in that moment. In times like these, you typically need a little reset — so it’s actually productive to give yourself a little grace.
Study Tip: Take Breaks
It might sound crazy, but taking regular breaks can help you stay focused! Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs tells us that we need to take care of our physiological being before we can really expand our minds and horizons. That means things like fresh air, food, water, and sleep are fundamental to our growth as people (and learners!).
So, after studying for a set amount of time, try taking a short break to stretch, grab a snack, or just rest. This can help you recharge and return to studying with fresh energy and focus.
#4: The Insecure Observer
You’re convinced you’re “not a math person.” You might feel more confident in other subjects, or maybe you don’t feel confident in any subject. You don’t raise your hand a lot in math class; if you don’t understand something, you chalk it up to a natural inability and just hope to pass.
If you feel like The Insecure Observer, you probably can’t focus because you’ve created a barrier between yourself and the subject. When you think things like “I’ll never be good at math,” you’re distancing your actual abilities from the material, ultimately convincing yourself you can’t do it (even though you can!).
Instead of feeling like an outsider when it comes to math, you can shift your mindset and prove those negative thoughts wrong.
Study Tip: Tiny Gains
The next time you have a math test, try setting small, realistic goals in the time leading up to the exam. Instead of trying to half-heartedly learn everything the night before, check off small goals to make steady progress every day.
For example, you can aim to complete five practice problems each day or review a chapter each week. Not only will this help you build momentum towards test day, but it will help you prove to yourself over time that you can learn this stuff! There’s nothing wrong with taking smaller steps and going at your own pace.
#5: The Numbers Natural
Math comes easily to you. Your brain thinks in numbers, and mental math is your jam. You can do pretty well on a math test without putting much effort in, so you don’t want to waste time studying.
If The Numbers Natural sounds like you, you probably don’t really want to focus on studying. It’s great that you have an innate ability to understand math, but it’s even better to push yourself to keep growing!
Study Tip: Teach Someone Else
Teaching someone else is one of the best ways to reinforce your understanding. Explain a math problem or concept to someone who’s not familiar with it, like a sibling or parent. Better yet, help a friend who’s studying for the same test and let them ask you questions. This will help you identify any gaps in your own understanding, while also supporting your friend’s learning journey. If you get stuck anywhere, use your Photomath app to walk through the steps and get back on track.
#6: Unmotivated & Uninterested
Math is not your favorite subject. You don’t hate it, but you just… don’t care. You wonder when you’ll ever use a quadratic equation or logarithm in the real world. You know you should study, but you’re not going to be a mathematician or a rocket scientist, so what does it matter?
If the Unmotivated & Uninterested mentality sounds like yours, it’s no surprise you’re having trouble focusing. Our brains don’t like to focus on or remember things that we don’t deem important! Sometimes, if we can’t muster the motivation within ourselves, we can lean on others to help us get where we need to be.
Study Tip: Study with Friends
Studying with friends might make learning more engaging for you. You can share tips and strategies, quiz each other, work through difficult concepts, and generally support and encourage each other. It’s a great way to stay accountable and motivated, and you might even get a new perspective on something. Think of it like quality time, but with math!
#7: The Overachiever
You’ve got to do it all, and you’ve got to do it all well. An A- is not an option. You pride yourself on your academic achievements and are probably involved in a lot of other activities, too. You have a competitive streak, especially with yourself. Maybe you’re even taking a higher-level math class than is typical for your grade or age.
If you’re The Overachiever, you’re probably pretty close to burnout. When you’re expending that much energy on so many different things, your ability to focus can dwindle pretty quickly. You’re also probably putting a lot of pressure on yourself and raising your stress level — which can also make it harder to focus.
Study Tip: Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Sleep is crucial for learning and memory consolidation. Try to get at least 8 hours of sleep each night, especially leading up to your math test. Don’t stay up late to cram, as this can actually hurt your performance on the exam. Remember: You can challenge yourself and take care of yourself.
Tips for everyone’s learning journey
No matter what kind of math mentality you might have, there are a few things every learner can keep in mind:
- Stay positive: A positive attitude can go a long way in helping you feel confident and prepared for your math test. Instead of focusing on your fears or doubts, remind yourself of your strengths and accomplishments. Believe in yourself and your ability to succeed!
- Practice mindfulness: Stay present and do things with intention. It’s so easy to get distracted by our phones, our surroundings, and the world in general; allow yourself time to focus, rest, and recharge. Meditation and breathing exercises are great ways to calm your nervous system when you feel overwhelmed!
- Ask for help: Don’t hesitate to ask your teacher, tutor, or guardian for help if you need it. It doesn’t make you weak — it makes you human.
Photomath has something for everyone
Studying can be simpler if you have the right tools. Photomath has a little something for everyone, so you can stay engaged and interested in your test prep. Whether you’re a frequent hand-raiser (hello, deep dives!), an auditory learner (did you know Animated Tutorials have voiceover?), or any identity under the sun, we’re ready to help every student, every day.
We believe in you, math friends. Let’s do this!
Are you still feeling anxious when someone mentions math? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Check out these tips to finally kick math anxiety to the curb.