A math refresher is an informal term that applies to a situation where a student may need remedial math work. Often, the student may take advantage of such courses during the course of a normal school day as an elective, and receive some credit for it. In other cases, the student may need to take a math refresher course outside of the school day, or on his or her own time. These courses help get the student where he or she needs to be to continue with a regular course of curriculum, or to prepare for a standardized test.
Depending on the situation, a math refresher course may be required even at a high school. Students who need a certain number of math credits to graduate, for example, may not be able to move on to higher mathematics without having a better grasp of the basics. Students may have the option of more formal classroom instruction, or perhaps could work one on one with a tutor, depending on the circumstance.
No matter what level of math the student is at, the math refresher course is designed to teach the student concepts that he or she has already seen or heard before. It is not usually a matter of teaching new material, as it is just reminding the student of material that has already been taught. Students may find they can progress much faster through a math refresher course than they can through a course with material to which they have never been exposed.
Some college students, especially those in community college, may need a math refresher before moving to college mathematics. In such cases, whether the student is eligible for college math credit or elective credit may depend on the difficulty of the course. In extreme situations, the student may need more than one math course before moving to college-level work.
Students who require these remedial math courses may not be that bad at math, but have simply forgotten some of the basic concepts. For example, some students forget the basic order of operations: parenthesis, exponents, multiplication, division, addition and subtraction, and the special rules and ranks of each level of those operations. These concepts are typically easy for students to remember once they are re-exposed to them.
Schools and teachers often used a standardized math test to determine what level each student is at. If the test score reveals the student is in need of a math refresher, the test may even suggest a specific level or course. This helps administrators determine the best placement for the student, and helps the student not to become overly frustrated by studying new concepts before they have the necessary background to complete the work.