# Math Hacks: Cool Tips + Less Stress = Better Marks

Math Hacks: Cool Tips + Less Stress = Better Marks

**#8. Study par-tay** Order pizza, make some popcorn, and set yourself up at a big table with your friends. Study quietly for thirty minutes, and then take a fifteen-minute break to talk about anything you’re stuck on. Get in a few good rounds of studying, then reward yourselves with a movie or dance off. Do it the weekend before your test and have a sleepover too! (From the chapter about Study Hacks)

Author Vanessa Vakharia is the founder and director of a math and science tutoring studio in Toronto called The Math Guru. She believes that anyone can be successful at math provided that they have the right attitude and take ownership for their learning. The book is divided into two main parts, the first of which consists of several hacks for developing good habits, be they eating healthy food to nourish the brain, practicing relaxation techniques to quell anxiety, or creating a quiet, well-equipped study/homework area. Among others, there are tips for memorization, removing distractions, preparing for and writing tests, and how to get the most out of a lesson in class. Vakharia also provides specific pointers for kids who are visual, auditory or kinesthetic learners. This first section takes up 41 pages before the reader arrives at the actual section on math hacks. In fact, the information in the first part of the book can be applied to any subject, not just math.

The remainder of the book is devoted to positive and negative numbers, place value, rounding, the four operations, fractions, decimals and percentages. There are several examples, complete with explanations, of various math concepts, as well as related diagrams and charts. “Watch Out!” text boxes offer important reminders while “Cool Trick” and “Feeling Stuck?” boxes provide additional tips (one cool trick to remember which number is the numerator and which is the denominator when working with fractions is that the bottom number is the “*down*omenator”). Students need not read the chapters in sequence; they can focus on the specific concept that gives them difficulty. Though online testimonials about the tutoring studio are very positive, receiving in-person tutoring is much different than reading about a concept in a book, and somehow, something gets “lost in translation” here. Some of the hacks can be a bit confusing and time-consuming:

**Multiplying by 5: odd numbers** If you’re multiplying an **odd** number by 5, subtract 1 from your number. THEN divide by 2, THEN tack a 5 on the end!

7 X 5 = ?

7 – 1 = 6 Subtract 1 from the number

6 ÷ 2 = 3 Divide the result by 2

7 X 5 = 35 Stick a 5 on the end

The “best trick EVER” for multiplying positive and negative numbers is rather questionable as is the use of the *pretend* decimal point when multiplying decimals. There is no mention of using manipulatives (something that can easily be found in a household, such as toothpicks, perhaps) to illustrate a point, nor are there any math problem-solving strategies.

Written in kids’ language, the text is speckled with emoticons, words such as “fave” and “diff”, and acronyms such as OMG and BFF. Many words are written in all caps, not always to emphasize a point, but sometimes in an attempt to be cool and to appeal to kids. There are several concepts whose examples are cluttered with far too much print, creating a busy diagram or page. One questions the likelihood of a student actually reading this book in order to better understand a math concept, or, as the author suggests, asking his/her parents to set up a teacher interview to discuss math. Perhaps this book would be best suited to a parent, resource teacher or tutor who is trying to help a child with math homework or offering suggestions as to how to develop good study habits.

On the plus side, there are plenty of great tips in the first part of the book and many useful math hacks in the second part. (As a former classroom teacher, I applaud the author for suggesting that kids memorize their times tables!) Above all, there is a great sense of positivity about this book- the notions that math is fun and that all children are capable and can learn to enjoy math. This positivity is also evident in the encouraging words and phrases such as “…and multiply like the pro you now are” and “Remember how you killed that whole place value thing in the Numbers chapter?” Illustrations consist of simple, cartoon drawings that will appeal to kids.

Much of the content in the math hacks section is already taught in schools, but the tricks and tips will definitely come in handy. The idea of math hacks is a good one, but it works better in a tutor-student or small group situation than in a book designed for a single reader..

Gail Hamilton is a former teacher and teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, Manitoba.