Monday, December 19, 2016

Conquer SAT & ACT Math with Math Toolbox (Part 3)

This is the third part in a series of how to conquer SAT and ACT Math by utilizing a Math Toolbox. For the complete list of the tools in the Math Toolbox and Part 1, visit here

Now that you mastered how to best use your pencil and your calculator, it is time to learn how to use the math tools you don't carry in your pocket on test day.  

The first of said tools is mental math

I mentioned mental math in the last post by stating that a calculator is not needed for every calculation since many problems can be solved in your head. The truth is, if you have to pull out your calculator for every problem on the SAT calculator math section or the entire ACT math section, you will waste a lot of time. 

Instead of using the calculator as a crutch, learn to leverage your mental math

Mental math isn't really that hard. Say you have to multiply 408 by 12. Sounds like a problem that requires a calculator, right? Actually, it doesn't. 408 x 12 is the same as (400 x 12) + (8 x 12). With mental math, you break calculations down into manageable chunks. 4 x 12 is 48, so 400 x 12 is 4800. 8 x 12 is 96 so your final answer is a pretty easy sum of 4800 + 96 or 4,896. 

Another useful trick with mental math is estimating. Often on the SAT and ACT, you can eliminate answer choices and get closer to the correct answer quickly by estimating. For example, let's say there is a question asking the area of an L-shaped pool. You could calculate the area of one section of the pool then add that to the calculation of the area of the other section. This would mean two different calculations which means lots of time. 

On the other hand, with mental math, you could estimate the area of both sections pretty quickly and eliminate any answer choices that are too small or too large. In most situations, this means you would eliminate as many as three answer choices.

Now, with the hard work already done, you can back into the correct answer much faster by looking at the remaining answer choices. But more on the back door in a future blog post as that is another tool in your math toolbox.

Ultimately, mental math can take you far when it comes to saving time and uncovering correct answers. Calculators are a useful tool but they can slow you down. Let your brain do some heavy lifting and watch correct answers appear faster. 

Next post will address the next math tool: translating. 

For more test-taking tips, contact CROSSWALK and learn how we prepare students stress-free for the SAT, ACT, PSAT, SSAT and more. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Conquer SAT & ACT Math with Math Toolbox (Part 2)

This is the second part in a series of how to conquer SAT and ACT Math by utilizing a Math Toolbox. For the complete list of the tools in the Math Toolbox and Part 1, visit here

Along with your pencil, the calculator is a pretty obvious resource for the test. You can use a calculator on the entire ACT math portion. The SAT and PSAT only allow calculators on one of the two math sections (no calculator on the SSAT by the way).

Nevertheless, a calculator can actually hinder your performance on the test if you don't use it wisely. A calculator can cause you to spend lots of extra time. Many students feel the need to use the calculator for every calculation. The test is designed such that, if you need to use a calculator for every problem, you might not be able to finish the test in time. 

Also, a calculator does not allow you to visually track all of your calculations. If you do all calculations on the calculator and you don't jot down any notes in your test booklet, it can be challenging to check your work and confirm the correct answer. 

So how do you effectively use a calculator as a part of your Math Toolbox? 

First of all, be sure you do all of your practice and studying with the same calculator you use on test day. Many students use their cell phone calculators when they practice for the test for reasons of convenience. Since cell phones are not allowed into the test, students have to learn the keys and format of a new calculator on test day. Major time waster! 

Secondly, learn to leverage your mental math skills instead of taking out a calculator for every calculation. Next blog post will detail the power of mental math, but for now, just be sure you understand that there are many calculations you can do in your head that are faster than plugging and plotting on a calculator. 

Finally, a calculator should not replace note taking. Getting pencil to paper and making a mess of your test booklet is the path to determining and confirming the correct answer. 

In all, your calculator should ultimately help you with both speed and accuracy on math problems on the SAT, ACT and PSAT. Use it wisely, and it can be one of the most productive tools in your Math Toolbox. 

For more test taking tips and tools, contact CROSSWALK today.