Math Anxiety Need Not Undermine Students During Critical Standardized Test Season
Students Can Reduce Anxiety by Addressing the Most Common Mistakes
Math Learning Expert Advises Focusing on the Three C’s: Concept, Comprehension, Calculation
LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)--With standardized test season approaching fast, math test anxiety threatens to undermine the hard work students have put in all year, hurting their chances for placement in advanced classes and the schools they wish to attend.
“Neat penmanship makes a huge difference in kids’ ability to think clearly and follow their own good reasoning”
This doesn’t have to be the case.
Math-learning expert Larry Martinek, Chief Instructional Officer at Mathnasium says students can reduce math anxiety, a well-documented phenomenon, by reviewing the mistakes they make in homework assignments and practice exams and grouping these errors into three, easy-to-remember categories:
- Concept, understanding the methods needed to solve specific problem types
- Comprehension, determining exactly what individual problems are asking students to do
- Calculation, solving the problem correctly without making errors or oversights
“Math test anxiety grips students when they face test questions for which they are not properly prepared or have had difficulty in the past. Reviewing past assignments and practice tests can unearth the root cause, which tends to be trouble with one or more of the three Cs: Concept, Comprehension, and Calculation. Once the weaknesses are identified, the job becomes one of addressing the specific difficulties, which will allow students to leave test anxiety behind and perform up to their true potential,” Larry says.
The solution begins by sitting down with students – this can be parents, teachers, or private instructors – and looking at the kinds of errors made in everyday tests, practice exams, and homework assignments. While this is particularly important when beginning to prepare for standardized tests, the process can be helpful at any time during the school year when students become anxious about math.
Concept challenges can be addressed by having students break questions down into a series of meaningful parts, resolving these parts individually, and then putting them back together. Asking children struggling with both Concept and Comprehension to read troublesome questions aloud can help significantly, strengthening the mechanics of understanding by invoking different parts of the brain. It also helps to ask students to reframe questions in their own words.
As for Calculation difficulties, Larry suggests that beyond rote practice, which is more appropriate in this situation than the others, it’s enormously helpful to make sure a child’s written work is neat and clear. “Neat penmanship makes a huge difference in kids’ ability to think clearly and follow their own good reasoning,” he says.
Larry notes that as test day approaches, children should take some common-sense steps that are important for tests of all types: Structure a daily study plan to avoid last-minute cramming; learn to pace yourself for test day. Have a good, high-protein breakfast the morning of the exam. When you get into the testing room STOP and close your eyes. Take a deep breath, exhale, open your eyes, and see the test with “I can do” eyes.
Math anxiety, which has been shown in studies to impact up to half of all students in some form, need not be a permanent hindrance to performance. With the proper approach, Larry explains, it can be effectively addressed.
Mathnasium (www.mathnasium.com), the nation’s leading math-only learning center franchise, specializes in teaching kids math in a way that makes sense to them. Students go to Mathnasium year-round to catch up, keep up, and get ahead in math. The proprietary Mathnasium Method™ is the result of 40+ years of hands-on instruction and research. Franchising since 2003, Mathnasium has become one of the fastest growing educational franchises, with a new center opening each week. There are more than 500 Mathnasium franchises in the U.S. and abroad. www.mathnasium.com