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Deakin student and Maths Mentor Maria Vanegas

23 April 2021

‘Don’t feel defeated by a wrong answer’: Maths Mentor Maria shares her top study tips

Feeling a little flustered by maths in your unit work and assessments? You’re not the only one!

That’s why we asked Deakin student and Maths Mentor Maria Rodriguez to tell us a little about herself and share her top tips for succeeding with maths subjects.

Originally hailing from Colombia, Maria has spent the last decade travelling and living abroad before settling in Melbourne where she’s lived for the past two-and-a-half years. She is currently studying Exercise and Sport Science, her third degree in addition to her qualifications in Engineering and Physics.

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

I have liked maths since I was little and participated in Math Olympiads during primary and high school. I also have a degree in Physics and another in Engineering, so I’m familiar with maths. 

I decided to apply after a Biomechanics Unit Chair (Dr Liz Bradshaw) told me I should become a Maths Mentor. During that trimester we talked before classes and she knew about my other degrees and suggested I could become one as there were few Maths Mentors from within the Health faculty.  

I also believe that the ‘fear’ or ‘anxiety’ some students/people have towards maths is due to the way they learned maths or the commonly believed social construct that maths is ‘hard’, and sometimes simply showing someone another way to look at a problem is just what a person needs to be able to solve a problem or gain trust in their ability.  

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

I would say a lack of confidence and experience with foundational maths. Some students become anxious when they start working through a problem and that clouds their thinking, which then makes the task feel harder or the student can’t trust in themselves that what they are doing is right. On the other hand, some students don’t have a maths background, so they lack knowledge with some basic math concepts that usually are not explained (or barely covered) in some classes.   

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

In general online study situations, common challenges are:

In maths-specific online study situations, having to explain or write maths equations can be hard through an online platform.  

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. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or seek help. Different approaches or ways to explain something can give you a different way to understand a concept.  
  2. Don’t feel defeated by a wrong answer. Go back and find what was wrong so you can learn from your mistakes and continue improving.
  3. Be patient and open to learning. As with anything we learn, it can be challenging at first.

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

It is a space where we are all learning, and nobody will judge anyone. We all are students, and we are just there to provide guidance and give useful tips to help you, while also hopefully having a great time.

It is helpful for Maths Mentors when the students come with a prepared question, concept, or problem they want to work on. But remember we cannot assist with assignments, quizzes, and exam questions. For example, last trimester I worked with some Biomechanics students and it was really useful when they provided a screenshot of a textbook problem they wanted to work on, or a problem they went through in class but they needed some additional advice because something was not clear for them.  

Now that there is a more unit-specific timetable for Maths Mentor drop-ins, try to attend those sessions if they are applicable to you, although remember we all can help you. 

Don’t be afraid to ask more questions or say you don’t understand something, we are there to help! And using the microphone (instead of the chat function) makes a huge difference.   

What are your favourite things about being a Maths Mentor?

Being able to help other students and knowing that spending some time with them can make a difference in their studies and hopefully make them more confident. I have also enjoyed getting to know different students, getting to talk to them (especially during lockdown) and learning more about the different units and careers that Deakin offers. 

It’s also been rewarding getting to know the other Maths Mentors, their stories and career goals. I’d never had the opportunity before to talk to students based in Geelong. It has been very nice having this time to interact with others, especially since we all moved online. 

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 Maria! 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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