Unit 5: Introduction to the Math Section

Math Section Overview
  • The Math portion consists of two modules of 22 questions each
  • There is a mix of multiple choice and free response questions throughout the section
  • Harder questions are worth more, but there is no indication of individual question weighting
  • The maximum for the math is 800 points.
  • The Desmos graphing calculator is available for all questions, or a handheld calculator (e.g. TI-84) can be used

Math Section Strategies
  • Know the math they want you to know.  There’s no way around it, you have to know how to solve certain types of math problems.  Fortunately, there are not that many types of problems you have to know.
  • Write it down!  Don’t do steps in your head, or any arithmetic more complicated than adding or subtracting single digit numbers.  Students miss many, many problems due to trying to do too much in their heads.  You can write as much as you want on your scrap paper, use it to your advantage.
  • Don’t get hung up.  The questions vary widely in degree of difficulty.  Don’t spend too long on any one question.
  • Get rid of fractions and radicals first.  This is almost always the first step to solving any algebra problem on the SAT.  
  • Draw a picture.  When they do not give you a picture, draw one yourself.  This works for “in the xy-plane…” problems as well as geometric figures.  When drawing graphs, they don’t need to be perfect, just directionally correct.

Rules for Answering
  • Always answer the question that is asked!  The test makers will almost always include answers that reflect what you would get if you misread the question, or only completed part of the problem.  Don’t get caught by this!  Check the final step of what the question is asking.  If the question asks, “what is xy ?”, you can be nearly certain they will have answer choices that reflect the correct value of x and by themselves.
  • Make sure your answer is reasonable.  This applies mostly to the grid-in questions, but if they are asking about average speed of a car on the freeway, and your calculations gave you 317mph, it’s time to revisit your math.