Usually at least 50% of my SAT-prep students answer yes to this question: “Who hates math?” Consequently these same students feel the same way about the SAT and PSAT/NMSQT math. Fortunately, the SAT has very little to do with math. As a matter of fact, not many of the math questions even resemble the ones found in the average math class. This is the true in homeschooling curriculum as well.
When students reach the math section on the SAT or PSAT/NMSQT, they often freeze up. They seem clueless because the questions look so unfamiliar that they automatically assume they don’t know the information, and therefore often resolve to leave a lot blank. Truth be told, these questions DO contain information that most students actually know but the problems have been disguised to look scary and create panic.
Even some smart math students are in shock when they get their test scores back. Usually it is because they approached the SAT and PSAT/NMSQT just like their normal math class. They probably spent a long time working out every problem and made sure they showed all their work. This is fine for school but not on a test of time management. Reality is, no one will ever see their work in their test booklet because the tests are graded by a machine that reads only the separate bubbled-in answer sheet.
Normal math questions at school are direct and to the point whereas SAT math questions are more obscure and devious in nature. The good news is that they are not higher math like Trigonometry, Calculus or College Math but generally contain some Algebra, Geometry or just plain old arithmetic. These concepts are usually disguised with crazy symbols or strange figures. Most students don’t realize that the questions are designed to trick them so often they will fall for the tricks.
For all tests to be equal, the College Board must use the same patterns, rules and standards for every math section. Thus, the SAT test-makers repeat similar concepts over and over again. Once students can learn how to decipher the strange question patterns, they can see how most questions can be answered quickly and with relative ease.
A student’s first thought when they approach the math section should not be, “How do I calculate to find the answer,” but rather, “Where’s the pattern? What’s the fastest way to find the answer?” I always emphasize this when I teach math taken under a homeschooling curriculum.
Approaching these tests with a very critical eye is essential for doing well on the math section. It doesn’t take a genius to get a high math score, but it does take knowing the hidden, recurring patterns that the test-makers always use. Once a students master this, they will find themselves doing very little math and this will make 100% of students happy. So get back to your homeschooling curriculum and review how you can ace all your math subjects.