Whether driven by academic requirements, career aspirations, or personal development, taking a math class — especially online or if it’s been a while — will require you to come prepared. While the prospect of an online math course might appear daunting, the transition can be smooth and successful with the right strategies.
Start by acknowledging the potential challenges and know that you’re not alone. No matter how long it’s been, you have many resources at your disposal. We have the practical insights and approaches to help you find the success you deserve in an online math course.
Are Online Math Classes Easier?
The difficulty of online math classes can vary due to factors like your instructor’s teaching style, your personal comfort level with math, your ability to follow the concepts, and the course structure. Some may find it challenging due to limited interaction, while others might excel with self-paced learning, which we’ll discuss in more detail below. Your success depends on adapting to the online format and utilizing available resources to overcome difficulties and grasp mathematical concepts effectively.
What Can Affect Your Success in an Online Math Class?
Your success in online math classes generally depends on several factors. Let’s take a look at each one.
How Busy You Are
Excessive distractions can affect your ability to dedicate your attention to lessons, undermining your online learning success. In addition to your courses, you may have to balance work and family obligations. You’ll need to develop strong time management skills and create a dedicated study environment so you can minimize distractions while you learn and study.
Whether You Ask for Help When Needed
In math, concepts build upon one another, so understanding each step of the process is one of the keys to success. If you encounter difficulties in the initial steps of problem-solving, try to address them as soon as you can by asking for help from your professor or classmates. This ensures you don’t fall behind as the lessons progress.
Your Personal Learning Style
Your personal learning style will significantly influence your experience in online math classes. If you thrive with hands-on, personalized attention, you may want to seek extra help during your online learning journey. On the contrary, if you excel in independent learning and appreciate a more hands-off approach, online math classes should be just right. Assess your learning preferences honestly and adapt your study strategies accordingly so you can make the most of your classes.
How To Be Successful In An Online Math Class
Everyone has different learning styles and math backgrounds, but these tips are meant to help those who might otherwise shy away from taking math online. Some of these tips can also help you succeed in online classes across disciplines.
Manage Your Nerves
No matter your previous experiences with math, try to approach your current online math course with a mindset focused on resilience. You know what does and doesn’t work for you, so you can focus on the study and practice methods that put you on the path to success.
Ease Into It
If it’s been a while since you’ve taken math, review the foundations again. Before starting the course, take a look at introductory or review chapters, which are typically designed to ease you into the subject matter. By focusing on less challenging content, you’ll be gently introduced back into the world of math concepts and problems. You’ll not only refresh your understanding but also familiarize yourself with the specific language of mathematics.
Use Your Academic Resources
Instructors are there to help you learn, so don't hesitate to reach out with questions as soon as they arise. This helps you keep up with the lessons as you progress through the course. If you wait until you feel overwhelmed, it might hinder your progress.
Some classes don’t have live instructors. In that case, tap into any included tutoring support early and address issues while they're still manageable. Your math textbook also serves as a valuable resource by offering homework problems aligned with section examples. The key is to stay proactive in accessing these resources so you get a solid grasp of foundational concepts.
Review Before Each Test
Before you take a test, review the topics you’ve learned so far to ensure you have a solid understanding of the material. This should help you feel confident on test day. Additionally, regularly reviewing the material can help you as you go along.
Make Your Math Course Part Of Your Routine
By incorporating your math course into your daily or weekly routine, you can establish a goal for how much time you want to spend on the course. Start by setting a specific timeframe, then designate days for focused work. The key here is to prioritize consistency over total hours. For instance, aiming for 2 hours on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays will likely be more effective than sporadic 10-hour sessions.
Rely on Your Support System
We know that in an online class, it's easy to forget that you’re sharing this learning experience with other students. Remember that you have a dedicated support team — including professors, tutors, student advisors, and maybe even friends and family — ready to assist you. You’re still part of a community, and assistance is always available to ensure your success in the course.
Find Math Success With StraighterLine
Online math classes don’t have to be scary, and they can be a great way to get through a requirement for a traditional school. In fact, with the right online learning platform, online math classes are a great solution to math anxiety. StraighterLine offers math classes at a variety of levels, from Introductory Algebra to General Calculus II, and all of our classes are designed for student success.
Try an online math class from StraighterLine at an affordable rate with the flexibility to fit your schedule and the 24/7 student support you need.
This article was originally written in March of 2021 by Dan Gryboski — who has taught math at community colleges, universities, and high schools — and was updated in January of 2024.