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13 January 2021

‘Do not be afraid’: Maths Mentor Daniel explains why confidence is the key to improving your maths

Do you get a little nervous when delving into mathematical concepts in your assignments? If so, you’re not alone!

We asked Maths Mentor Daniel Coomber, who is currently completing an honours year in Chemistry after recently graduating from his Bachelor of Science degree, for his advice on how you can best approach your work and succeed in your maths subjects.

What are you hoping to do professionally after university?

I’m hoping to complete a PhD in Chemistry. After that, I plan to just see where my degree takes me.

Why did you want to become a Maths Mentor at Deakin?

I joined at the start of the second year of my Bachelor of Science, when I was majoring in Maths but unemployed. I had also worked occasionally as a private tutor since high school and really loved helping people understand maths, so the Maths Mentor role seemed like the perfect job for me.

In your experience, what are the most common problems that students face with maths?

The most common problems students have are confidence issues. A lot of students stopping by the Drop-in desk will have a very good idea of what they are meant to be doing, but they will just mess up one step in a question because they are not confident about their answer. Then solving the whole problem goes wrong.

Also algebra, we get a lot of algebra questions.

What sort of challenges do you think students face studying online?

I find it is very easy to get distracted. I really preferred the classroom learning environment and studying online is just not the same. For maths especially, it is a field that is best explained quite dynamically. Different parts will make sense to different students and a pre-recorded lecture does not quite do this justice. Coupled with not being able to easily chat with the other students in your class, it can make it quite hard to get a good understanding of the content you are learning. Personally, I don’t think I ever really understood the content until I was working through it with some friends trying to solve questions a couple hours before they were due.

What are your top three tips for students who may lack confidence with maths and who want to improve their skills in this area?

  1. Do not be afraid. A lot of students we see through the mentor desk already know how to solve the problem. They are just not confident enough in their answers.
  2. Identify which areas to focus on. It can be daunting to have to just ‘learn maths’. It is much easier to break it down into a specific part of maths which you can focus on. Maybe you notice while answering questions you really struggle to rearrange the formulas, but you know how to solve the rest of it. In this case you would focus on algebra (check out our Maths Support Resource Centre website for our general and unit-specific resources!).
  3. Do a little bit each day. The very best way to improve your maths is to practice it every day. Identify the problem area, print off some questions (great links on our website for these!), and try to solve a couple every day.

Why should students attend a Maths Mentor drop-in session online, and do you have any tips on how can they get the most out of these sessions? 

Students should attend if they are struggling with anything ‘maths-y’ at all as we’re a free service, easily accessible online, being paid to help with maths problems, and will get very excited if you bring something interesting in.

As for getting the most out of the session, the best thing you can do is to know why you are coming in. If you have an idea of the concept you are struggling with, or the step in a problem that keeps tripping you up, it is a lot easier for us to help and you will get a lot more out of the session.

What are your favourite things about being a Maths Mentor?

Everything, to be honest – the mentors I work with are all lovely, the people who come in are always nice, and the wide variety of maths problems I get to work with really keeps the job interesting.

Get in touch today!

If you want to chat to someone about your maths concerns, attend one of our daily drop-in online interactive sessions hosted by a Maths Mentor like Daniel! You don’t need an appointment, just bring your maths questions. You can share your screen, talk or text with the mentor. You can also get in touch via email and access all the useful resources on the Maths Support Resource Centre at any time.

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