The Student Room Group

How do I stop making stupid mistakes??

I like doing maths. I went from a 6 to a high 8 in a matter of a few months. Maths is very satisfying to me; it's like solving a puzzle. I've gotten to the point now where I can genuinely enjoy doing the 5 markers at the end of the paper.

HOWEVER

My ability to get correct answers is SEVERELY inhibited by me making careless mistakes. No matter how many times I check my working, I always do something stupid like forgetting two negatives multiply to get a positive, or getting basic operations like multiplication and division done in my head wrong (even if I do them on paper), or just reading numbers wrong and substituting the wrong values into an equation.

These errors are the bane of my maths learning!! How do I fix them?? (Apart from doing past paper questions, I've been doing LOTS of them recently)

Thank you for your help :smile:
Original post by xAspect
I like doing maths. I went from a 6 to a high 8 in a matter of a few months. Maths is very satisfying to me; it's like solving a puzzle. I've gotten to the point now where I can genuinely enjoy doing the 5 markers at the end of the paper.
HOWEVER
My ability to get correct answers is SEVERELY inhibited by me making careless mistakes. No matter how many times I check my working, I always do something stupid like forgetting two negatives multiply to get a positive, or getting basic operations like multiplication and division done in my head wrong (even if I do them on paper), or just reading numbers wrong and substituting the wrong values into an equation.
These errors are the bane of my maths learning!! How do I fix them?? (Apart from doing past paper questions, I've been doing LOTS of them recently)
Thank you for your help :smile:

take care with each step you write out - sometimes working in a rush can be the main cause
Reply 2
Just lock in (go over your working out for high mark questions at the end if you have time)
Reply 3
Original post by xAspect
I like doing maths. I went from a 6 to a high 8 in a matter of a few months. Maths is very satisfying to me; it's like solving a puzzle. I've gotten to the point now where I can genuinely enjoy doing the 5 markers at the end of the paper.
HOWEVER
My ability to get correct answers is SEVERELY inhibited by me making careless mistakes. No matter how many times I check my working, I always do something stupid like forgetting two negatives multiply to get a positive, or getting basic operations like multiplication and division done in my head wrong (even if I do them on paper), or just reading numbers wrong and substituting the wrong values into an equation.
These errors are the bane of my maths learning!! How do I fix them?? (Apart from doing past paper questions, I've been doing LOTS of them recently)
Thank you for your help :smile:

I have this problem as well!! However, I always have a lot of time at the end of the exam so I literally redo all the questions. I will only look at the question and then write it out in the extra paper at the back and then do the question and compare my answers (I use the scottish education system but i assume you will have extra paper as well). This is the only thing that has worked for me, if u don’t have that amount of time you could just maybe redo the ones you normally make mistakes on.
Reply 4
Original post by aloeplant
I have this problem as well!! However, I always have a lot of time at the end of the exam so I literally redo all the questions. I will only look at the question and then write it out in the extra paper at the back and then do the question and compare my answers (I use the scottish education system but i assume you will have extra paper as well). This is the only thing that has worked for me, if u don’t have that amount of time you could just maybe redo the ones you normally make mistakes on.

Thank you!! This is really helpful :biggrin:
The really unhelpful advice to avoid careless algebraic errors is to "be less careless". But really, that's all there is.

Practically, from someone who's also very careless, you want to do your algebraic manipulation slowly. Also write things a bit more neatly (so not to confuse your 2 with your z, your 9 with your g, etc.). The aim here is to do your calculations once and never redo them. I for one very rarely check my algebra by hand since I never manage to find them during an exam anyway.

Also I assume you can't use a calculator. If you can, use it for everything (including as mundane as 1+1).

EDIT: More importantly, develop your intuition as to what answers look wrong.
(edited 2 months ago)
Reply 6
Original post by keep improving
take care with each step you write out - sometimes working in a rush can be the main cause

This is something I'll try doing - often I do a few steps in one to save time for the bigger question. Thanks for your help! :biggrin:
Reply 7
Original post by xAspect
Thank you!! This is really helpful :biggrin:

I’m glad I could offer some help!! Best of luck with your exams!!!
Reply 8
Original post by tonyiptony
The really unhelpful advice to avoid careless algebraic errors is to "be less careless". But really, that's all there is.
Practically, from someone who's also very careless, you want to do your algebraic manipulation slowly. Also write things a bit more neatly (so not to confuse your 2 with your z, your 9 with your g, etc.). The aim here is to do your calculations once and never redo them. I for one very rarely check my algebra by hand since I never manage to find them during an exam anyway.
Also I assume you can't use a calculator. If you can, use it for everything (including as mundane as 1+1).

Thank you!! we have 3 papers: 1 calc, and 2 non-calc. Rest assured, I do literally use my calculator for 1+1 😂 I'll try taking more time with my algebra! Thank you for your help! :biggrin:
Reply 9
Original post by xAspect
I like doing maths. I went from a 6 to a high 8 in a matter of a few months. Maths is very satisfying to me; it's like solving a puzzle. I've gotten to the point now where I can genuinely enjoy doing the 5 markers at the end of the paper.
HOWEVER
My ability to get correct answers is SEVERELY inhibited by me making careless mistakes. No matter how many times I check my working, I always do something stupid like forgetting two negatives multiply to get a positive, or getting basic operations like multiplication and division done in my head wrong (even if I do them on paper), or just reading numbers wrong and substituting the wrong values into an equation.
These errors are the bane of my maths learning!! How do I fix them?? (Apart from doing past paper questions, I've been doing LOTS of them recently)
Thank you for your help :smile:

I have a friend who does maths + further maths. i asked her the same thing and she said as long as you have time at the end of the paper, go back and review every question and read the question like you've never seen it before. start fresh and after reading the question, look at the workings very carefully. i think it'll take a bit of training to get into a mindset where you have to act like it's your first time seeing the questions and working but it's possible.

hopefully it's helpful. good luck!
Reply 10
Original post by Moonakitty
I have a friend who does maths + further maths. i asked her the same thing and she said as long as you have time at the end of the paper, go back and review every question and read the question like you've never seen it before. start fresh and after reading the question, look at the workings very carefully. i think it'll take a bit of training to get into a mindset where you have to act like it's your first time seeing the questions and working but it's possible.
hopefully it's helpful. good luck!

Yes, thank you, this is very helpful! I'll make more of an effort to see the same question in a different light now! Thank you! :biggrin:
Reply 11
Original post by xAspect
I like doing maths. I went from a 6 to a high 8 in a matter of a few months. Maths is very satisfying to me; it's like solving a puzzle. I've gotten to the point now where I can genuinely enjoy doing the 5 markers at the end of the paper.
HOWEVER
My ability to get correct answers is SEVERELY inhibited by me making careless mistakes. No matter how many times I check my working, I always do something stupid like forgetting two negatives multiply to get a positive, or getting basic operations like multiplication and division done in my head wrong (even if I do them on paper), or just reading numbers wrong and substituting the wrong values into an equation.
These errors are the bane of my maths learning!! How do I fix them?? (Apart from doing past paper questions, I've been doing LOTS of them recently)
Thank you for your help :smile:

My main advice, which others here have stated in part, is to try and do any workings in as many steps as possible. Mistakes tend to slip in when we do multiple operations per line of working, so doing each individual operation explicitly tends to lead to fewer mistakes, as it's harder to miss them. Hope this helps!
Reply 12
I always tell my students to imagine there are two of them. One doing the question and one checking behind. The one behind is there to remind the one who is doing the question where they normally make mistakes, so to take it extra carefully. I always say to deal with signs first. If you are looking for a gradient, is it a positive or negative one? When expanding brackets, decide on the sign first, etc. You know where you tend to make your mistakes. Be extra careful there. It is much harder to spot a mistake because we tend to read wrong (think of how much easier to spot a typo in someone else’s work than your own). Underline what is important in the question. When doing your calculations, put a few words so that the examiner can follow you more easily but you also can check more easily (for example if you lose your concentration). Your examiner is more likely to give you a mark if they can follow your reasoning easily.
If you get stuck, what did they give you that you have not yet used?
You’ve worked hard, you’ll do well.
Reply 13
Original post by Frogette
I always tell my students to imagine there are two of them. One doing the question and one checking behind. The one behind is there to remind the one who is doing the question where they normally make mistakes, so to take it extra carefully. I always say to deal with signs first. If you are looking for a gradient, is it a positive or negative one? When expanding brackets, decide on the sign first, etc. You know where you tend to make your mistakes. Be extra careful there. It is much harder to spot a mistake because we tend to read wrong (think of how much easier to spot a typo in someone else’s work than your own). Underline what is important in the question. When doing your calculations, put a few words so that the examiner can follow you more easily but you also can check more easily (for example if you lose your concentration). Your examiner is more likely to give you a mark if they can follow your reasoning easily.
If you get stuck, what did they give you that you have not yet used?
You’ve worked hard, you’ll do well.

Thank you so much, this is genuinely SO helpful!! I'll definitely try using this strategy later today and let you know how it goes! :biggrin:

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