How do you become a mathematics genius?

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How many times have you heard someone say “I can’t do maths”? Chances are you’ve said it yourself. Thanks to this shuddering fear, most of us have often wondered if there a secret pill that we need to take to become a mathematics genius – even just for the day of our final exam? I know… I wished one for myself when I was a student especially in my Trigonometry finals in school. That was the only time in my life when I absolutely had no idea on an exam. I wished for some kind of math magic to be bestowed upon me even for just 20 minutes. That would have saved my life, literally.

If you have ever secretly dreamed of confusing the teacher, becoming the talk of the classroom or the students’/parents’ secret icon, and the future Euler, then you’ve come to the right place! Here are a few tips to help you become the maths nerd of your class…

The Golden Rule

Even after you get stuck, keep working on your problem set. Don’t just sit and stare at it: think hard; until you’re exhausted; then come back the next day and try again. This will be uncomfortable, but that discomfort is the feeling of your brain stretching to accommodate new abilities.

Did You Know?

  • In 2011, a study by John Hopkins University found that young children with a highly-developed ‘number sense’ – the ability to estimate numbers – were also better at maths tests. The researchers suggested that this meant the ability to work with numbers may be something people are born with.
  • When Albert Einstein died in 1955, his brain was removed and preserved for future scientific study. Numerous scientists have studied it, and while their results have sometimes been controversial, many say Einstein’s brain was different to others,’ making him a math genius.
  • Medical scanners, mobile phones, Google’s search results, airline scheduling, predicting global warming and a host of other things all involve high-level maths.

How to Become a Mathematics Genius

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Learn the Logic and Process Involved in Solving a Problem

Understand that math is sequential. Many people feel they have to memorize concepts and formulas, or map out the answer in their head before they begin. This is not productive. Instead, try to understand the concepts behind math. If you see how and why an equation works, you’ll be able to remember it more easily in a pinch.

Math theory may seem complicated, but with a little hard work you can begin to figure it out. In math classes, do not hesitate to ask why. Why does the Pythagorean Theorem work? How does the quadratic equation work on a logical level?

Buy Some Maths Books

Some teachers dissuade students from buying maths books on their own for reasons I’m not too sure of. I strongly recommend that you treat yourself to some interesting maths books to familiarize yourself with the often complex maths language. The quicker you face the literature on your own, the faster you will understand maths idioms. To become a mathematics genius, you must first be aware of its language!

Here are some ideas:

For the Layman:

“What is Mathematics?” by R. Courant and H. Robbins: An excellent and classical introduction to Maths.

Any of the popular-science writing of Ian Stewart: A good idea to know what is happening in the Maths research field.

For Students:

“A panorama of Pure Mathematics” by J. Dieudonné: Written in the early 80s, but still an excellent snapshot of the entire maths production nowadays.

Take a look at our article: Topic-Wise JEE Books for Maths

Take a Deep Breath…

One of the biggest obstacles to become a mathematics genius is plain old fear! If you assume you’re bad at math, when you get a problem wrong, you will see that as a confirmation of this assumption. You will think to yourself, “I knew I’m no good at this. What’s the point?” If you’re currently struggling with math, don’t think, “I’m bad at math.” Instead, think to yourself, “With some hard work, I know I can improve my skills.” You have to overcome the brain freeze you get when you first look at the challenge.

Practice & Some More Practice

Learning mathematics is like learning to play an instrument. You cannot expect to become adept within a day or two. You have to practice hard in order to come up with the best possible tune. It’s like learning a new language. The more you practice, the better you get at it.

Mental Mathematics 

Doing quick calculations in the mind without using pen and paper is referred to as mental mathematics or simply mental math. Some of the secrets of doing mental math are mentioned as follows:

  1. Multiplying by the Powers of 5 

The trick with the powers of 5 is to recognize that the numbers obtained are always a multiple of 10 divided by an integer.

Example:
36 x 25
The trick here is to recognize that 25 = 100 / 4.
So,
36 x 25 = 36 x (100 / 4)
Since we can quickly figure out that 36 x 100 = 3,600, it’s easy to find that 36 x 25 = 3600 / 4 = 900.

  1. Multiplying by 9s

The trick here is to simply know that you can multiply the other number by the next higher power of 10 and then subtract the original number from the product thus obtained.

Example:
44 x 99
The trick here is to simply recognize that this is the same as 44 x (100 – 1) = (44 x 100) – 44 = 4356.

  1. Double and Half to Multiply Fast

The trick is to continually double one number while halving the other, and then perform the calculation.

Example:
47 x 24
Since 24 is an even number and can be halved easily, we can use this idea of doubling and halving to solve this problem quickly.
So,
47 x 24 = 94 x 12 = 188 x 6 = 376 x 3 = 1,128

There are numerous such techniques available. If properly learned, you will not only perform the calculations at a lightning fast speed, but also avoid silly mistakes in calculations.

Remember, it’s okay to falter. Professional mathematicians or experts also spend most of their career getting stuck at problems. The only difference is that they do not get discouraged and leave the challenge. Instead they look at different ways to solve the problem. The challenge is what makes it exciting.

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