Studying Maths Off-Campus further one-to-one assistance on how to study maths and prerequisite mathematics, contact The  Learning Centre.

What to do when you get stuck

  • Scan the module first to see what is in store for you. The objectives in the introduction will also give you a summary of this.
  • Read through the text and examples in the module. When you come to an activity, complete the questions included there. Solutions to all the questions are often included at the back of each module - look at these if you have a problem.
  • Purchase a small notebook or set of cards to include definitions of new words, symbols and concepts. When you come to a new word, symbol or concept, add this to the lists in this notebook.  For example, factors is a commonly used word but in mathematics it has a particular meaning, and you might construct a notebook entry for it. You could even develop your own index to the areas you have difficulty with.
  • Talk about your mathematics. It is amazing how even maths can be helped by talking with somebody. You can do this with friends, work colleagues or through the course discussion group.
  • Contact your lecturer for hints. This can save an enormous amount of time.

‘Doing the sums' is only one part of doing and being involved in mathematics. Communication is just as important. You have to be able to convince your colleagues or clients that your answer is the appropriate one. 

Other things that you will develop will include your ability to think critically, refine ideas, interpret results and apply new ideas in creative ways. Just like many learners of mathematics in the past, you will be integrating your new knowledge with what you already know.

It is important to realise that learning mathematics is an exploration where often:

  • you will struggle to make ‘sense' of something
  • you need to revise and refine your ideas
  • more questions than answers might be raised in your mind

What can you do to help resolve such dilemmas?

  • value your intuition and common sense
  • listen to any nagging doubt in your mind
  • recognise when you no longer understand something
  • recognise and celebrate when you have finally ‘got it'
  • be pleased when you get stuck as it is here you will be learning new skills

There is no doubt that you are going to get stuck sometimes. This can occur when you are trying to work through the study material or when trying to solve a problem.  

DON'T PANIC!   Try to see ‘getting stuck' in a positive light

 Strategies for getting unstuck when working through the study material:

  • recall the last time you were stuck – how did you get out of it then? Remember what you did get out of the hole
  • go back a couple of paragraphs and read aloud, slowly
  • skip the part you are stuck on: read forward a few paragraphs, check the corresponding activity set and then return to where you were stuck
  • check some old school textbooks you might have for a different explanation
  • contact the discussion group or somebody you might know and explain to them the topic up to the point you got stuck (they don't have to be doing maths too).
  • contact your tutor

Strategies for getting unstuck when ‘problem solving'

  • re-read the question slowly
  • determine what is required
  • determine information given and note any special conditions
  • determine if any information is irrelevant
  • break down the problem into parts
  • 'guesstimate' the answer to part of the problem and proceed
  • look at a simpler problem

If things have still not gone quite right then:

  • check that you have not copied anything down incorrectly
  • scan for errors in your calculations
  • look back at answers to similar questions
  • start with a fresh page where you cannot see previous working
  • read the question again slowly
  • leave the problem for another day
  • ask your tutor or lecturer for help