I need to learn basic to fairly advanced Math and English and I'm somewhat of a rookie who is taking action. Help!!
September 4, 2007 9:49 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking to rebuild my mathematics skills from the ground up so that I have proper habits. I'm looking to start from the basics and go straight up to calculus. Math was a subject in which I didn't pay as much attention to as I wish that I had and am looking to find the best sources of information on the subject. I also would love software that would drill me kind of like speed reading software but for math.

Also I am trying to do virtually the same thing for English If anyone has any tips, tricks, information gold mines, or tutor software Please please let me know. I need to cram this year.

(I would have posted this as two separate questions but time is limited on how I set up for this and I want to be prepared.)
posted by Chamunks to Education (22 answers total) 47 users marked this as a favorite
I can't say enough for knowing your multiplication tables. for reals
posted by Rubbstone at 10:04 PM on September 4, 2007

Response by poster: Yeah multiplication tables is something that needs work it would be awesome to have some kind of software that would drill me multiplication questions or something like that.
posted by Chamunks at 10:07 PM on September 4, 2007

Wow, I was thinking about asking a question very similar to this one, as I may be getting a job in teaching high school math and I'm a little rusty on my Algebra and Trigonometry.

I'm sorry I can't give you any answers, but I'll be keeping a close watch on this thread.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 10:09 PM on September 4, 2007

Though perhaps not quite what you're asking, I advise looking at Polya's How to Solve It. Problem solving skills are important both for doing and understanding mathematics.
posted by parudox at 10:13 PM on September 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: parudox sweet ill have to look at that though i currently am doing this on a dime i don't perticularly have tonnes of cash to throw around but keep em comin folks :)
posted by Chamunks at 10:16 PM on September 4, 2007

Variants on "how to learn math" have been discussed many times -- Calculus resources for the curious, I'd like to learn math, Best rules, formulas and tricks in math, and many more.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 10:16 PM on September 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

Wow, I admire you for that. I could sure use to do the same thing.

Regarding multiplication tables: I've always said that calculators are great but are also a crutch, they make it really easy to forget those basics (if you have access to Mathematica, of course, then you can even manage to forget calculus...). So as you work through, consider doing everything you can by hand, as awful as it might sound.
posted by you're a kitty! at 10:22 PM on September 4, 2007

Response by poster: sweet thanks Zed_lopez thanks for not just telling me to use the search function. Calculus as a destination isn't a concrete destination for me as of yet but i figure math is a weaker subject of mine so to learn its hardest points would be to toughen my weak spots.

Keep in mind I would also like software titles or something for drilling me on the multiplication tables. Also english stuff too.
posted by Chamunks at 10:25 PM on September 4, 2007

Response by poster: I figure that for the most part calculators will only serve as a confirmation device or a greaser when my mind feels stuck. Since I'm basically trying to master an entire subject in an extremely short period of time I will wish to make it as painless and enjoyable as possible.
posted by Chamunks at 10:27 PM on September 4, 2007

Honestly, multiplication tables are important, but it's also important to realize the meaning behind this action.

I've heard too many stories about people having to pull out a calculator to determine what 1 x 6 or 0 x 29 is. If you consider what multiplying 1 times anything should mean, then the first of these should be clear.

I would worry less about speed to begin with and more about understanding what you're doing, and why it does what it does first.

Unfortunately, I realize that I'm still not helping find software programs and the like... but look for old textbooks, and just work through the exercises. Again, and again. And again.

And again. Trust me, it will help. Repetition is the key, at least to begin with.
posted by vernondalhart at 10:32 PM on September 4, 2007

Response by poster: Anyways I'm going to bed please please feel free to continue leaving that good ole high octane hive mind knowledge. :)

Thanks in advance Chamunks. 1:30Am (GMT -5:00) Eastern time (US & Canada)
posted by Chamunks at 10:33 PM on September 4, 2007

You might take a look at ALEKS, an online program that will drill you in math.

Here's the description from the "What is ALEKS" page: ALEKS is a web-based, artificially intelligent assessment and learning system. ALEKS uses adaptive questioning to quickly and accurately determine exactly what a student knows and doesn't know in a course. ALEKS then instructs the student on the topics she is most ready to learn. As a student works through a course, ALEKS periodically reassesses the student to ensure that topics learned are also retained. ALEKS courses are very complete in their topic coverage and ALEKS avoids multiple choice questions. A student who shows a high level of mastery of an ALEKS course will be successful in the actual course she is taking.

ALEKS also provides the advantages of one-on-one instruction, 24/7, from virtually any web-based computer for a fraction of the cost of a human tutor.

I have friends who have used and enjoyed it.
posted by jvilter at 11:49 PM on September 4, 2007 [2 favorites]

Play Funnels and Buckets! My siblings and I all played this when we were in primary school, and it was great fun and excellent practice in basic math operations. I just googled it to check it's still around, and downloaded it from the first result (other results have more explanation). It's an MSDOS executable (zipped with some .scr file, whatever that does), and ran fine on my current XP setup. You might want to turn the sound off or down, and set it to the slowest speed to start.
posted by jacalata at 12:21 AM on September 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

DaisyMaths is good for getting up to speed with all the stuff you ignored in primary school.
posted by flabdablet at 12:41 AM on September 5, 2007

As a kid, I taught myself algebra using these:

Key to...® Series

I found them very straightforward - they also have workbooks for other basic math skills.

To this day I'm fond of algebra due to my experience with these workbooks...no joke.

For multiplication tables, what about flashcards (you can buy sets or make your own, and there are also lots of websites you can use to practice)? I remember learning them this way, and it seemed to work for me. If using paper cards, shuffle them so they're random, and have someone quiz you. I agree with vernondalhart about knowing the principles behind multiplication, though.

In fact, that applies to everything you're looking to learn. If you don't know the reasoning behind the correct answer, my guess is the information will be (a) difficult to remember beyond the short term, and (b) impossible to teach/explain to anyone else.
posted by splendid animal at 2:14 AM on September 5, 2007

Not a math girl here. A million years ago when I had to take the GMAT for admission to an MBA program, I bought a test-prep review book and started the math section at chapter one, assuming I knew nothing. I read the sections, took the sample questions and redid the ones I missed over and over until I aced it before moving on to the next part. It worked for my GMAT scores but was also a great and very disciplined approach that I somehow missed absorbing as a kid. So maybe start with an SAT prep book and work your way up?
posted by Sweetie Darling at 2:49 AM on September 5, 2007

I love this math workbook: Basic College Mathematics. I'm currently working my way through it in preparation for the GREs. I had thought that a GRE prep book would be enough to jog my memory back to high-school levels but, alas, it was not so and I needed something more foundational. The GRE prep books have a lot about test-taking strategy and I wanted/needed more practice in the math itself.

The book starts with addition and subtraction, which I was tempted to skip but then I learned a neat subtraction tip, so I went through those chapters all the way. (I also needed a sense of 'that wasn't so bad' to keep me motivated.)

It has tests at the end of every chapter and answers in the back. Like Sweetie Darling, I redo the problems and sections I seem weak on before moving on. I also like that the book takes an "applied math" approach. This means the test questions are often real life situations from the trades (how many linear feet of gutter will you need for a house which...); finance (three siblings want to invest a proportionately equal amount in a business..); consumerism (the average cost of gas you put in your car over a month). These questions were more interesting to me as an adult learner.

It covers "up to" algebra and geometry, with sections on statistics, ratios, rational numbers; so you'd need to get a follow-on book for calculus.
posted by cocoagirl at 4:03 AM on September 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

Algebra & the Calculator:
Algebra is not arithmetic. However, you can use arithmetic to check your algebra, and this is most encouraged and fastest done with a calculator. Sometimes, it is helpful to put numbers into equations just to prove to yourself that the voodoo of algebra really works. IMO, it helps solidify the foundation.

If you want to refresh your arithmetic, by all means, do manual calculations.
posted by Goofyy at 4:53 AM on September 5, 2007

I like Goofyy's advice. It's been a while since I was learning algebra but I remember that sticking numbers in for the variables and watching it all work out was helpful. When you see for yourself that the abstractions hold true, your understanding deepens and you will progress quicker. Do the calculations manually. Getting a bit of a feel for numbers is useful at all levels. If nothing else it will alert you to obvious errors. I see kids in my vocational classes who have to divide by 100 on the calculator to get a percent. That's pretty sad. If you are going back to arithmetic then you may as well learn speed math. Take a look at the Trachtenberg method.

While I never had any real issues in math, a couple of years after college graduation I realized that I had no understanding of English grammar beyond subject - predicate, and even that was pretty shaky. After working through a sentence diagramming exercise book I improved considerably. Parsing a sentence seems to be a more favored educational method but I found the visual representation of the relationships between the parts of the sentence to be helpful. It should be easy to get a book on sentence diagramming through the library. There are also a number of well written, general interest books on grammar and punctuation. Look up the Transitive Vampire on Amazon and check out some of the other recommended books on the page. Many libraries stock them. But it's just like math. Clear exposition helps, and you still have to do the exercises to get the results you want.

Give yourself some time. There's a lot there.
posted by BigSky at 6:41 AM on September 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

Is this for standardized testing purposes, or for more general knowledge? Also, what do you mean by "English"? Do you mean stuff like grammar and style, reading for speed and comprehension, or knowledge of literature?

In any case, I'd also recommend test prep materials (start with SAT stuff and eventually move to GRE). The test-specific strategy will not be so important (so I'd avoid Kaplan stuff, which tends to be more focused on test strategies), but you might want to look at Spark Notes. A lot of their stuff is online, and they are a bit more holistic than others, if you are not doing this for a test.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:33 AM on September 5, 2007

As far as English goes, I would suggest simply reading material that's just above your level. Academic libraries (and to a lesser extent, public libraries) should provide plenty of material for even the most advanced reader. With a dictionary, a copy of The Elements of Style, and Google within arm's reach, stopping to research can yield many lessons.

What's that word mean, exactly? Goto Dictionary.
That sentence is confusing, why? How could it be better constructed? Goto Elements of Style.
Who the heck was Nikolai Chauchesku? Goto Google.

I don't have any grammar school rote programming suggestions. Frankly, I don't think anyone needs them - including children - but that's another question.
posted by GPF at 7:36 AM on September 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

The game Brain Age 2 for Nintendo DS has games involving addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. I say games, but they're pretty much a lot basic sums. If you already have a DS, might be worth a look.
posted by djgh at 9:05 AM on September 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

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