Ask Uncle Colin: How can I beat my little sister?

Ask Uncle Colin is a chance to ask your burning, possibly embarrassing, maths questions -- and to show off your skills at coming up with clever acronyms. Send your questions to and Uncle Colin will do what he can.

Dear Uncle Colin

I'm in year 9 and really annoyed: my little sister keeps beating me in maths tests! I've only ever beaten her once, and even then only by one point. It's shameful!

I always do the exercises in the book and work really hard at revising, but I never seem to get more than 83%! How can I revise more effectively?

Family Intelligence Or Ridiculous Expectations?

Hiya, FIORE,

First up: don't feel ashamed of 'losing' to your little sister. Maths is a competition with yourself, not with anyone else.

That said, it's a perfectly good idea to try to score more points :o) I'd recommend trying to figure out where you drop marks in exams. What mistakes do you make? Are they errors of understanding (the question didn't say what you thought it did), errors of execution (you made an error in copying or calculation), errors of explanation (you're doing something that's right, but not making it clear)? Are you running out of time? Do you write clearly?

Rather than looking at 83% as a failure, look at it as 17 things you can put right and become a better mathematician.

It sounds to me like you're doing well. If you analyse where you make mistakes and work on checking those errors, you can do even better.

Good luck in your exam!

-- Uncle Colin


Colin is a Weymouth maths tutor, author of several Maths For Dummies books and A-level maths guides. He started Flying Colours Maths in 2008. He lives with an espresso pot and nothing to prove.


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Where do you teach?

I teach in my home in Abbotsbury Road, Weymouth.

It's a 15-minute walk from Weymouth station, and it's on bus routes 3, 8 and X53. On-road parking is available nearby.

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