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Math Anxiety – Overcoming Test Fear
In previous articles in this series, I’ve discussed the math myths our society has spread and how these misconceptions affect how children approach learning challenges in the math classroom. In addition, overcoming this anxiety when doing homework is essential to deal with the emotional block of thinking that the student “can’t do it” and “will never do it”.
It’s been said before that to truly conquer your fear, you have to name it and understand it. On many levels, the anxiety students feel when they move into a math test situation becomes irrational. Any honest concerns they may have had about the classroom material that will appear on the test are blown up into huge emotional blocks that understandably affect their performance. To alleviate the intensity of this perception, it is essential to truly understand what has led to this point. With the help of parents, classroom teacher, online tutor (any listening patient will do!), students should think about when this problem started. What has happened in the past to form the belief that fear is insurmountable, unsolvable? What have been the true results of previous tests, in other areas of the curriculum? What steps did the student take to deal with the problem?
As mentioned in the other parts of this series of articles, contributing factors are the myths and misconceptions that people have about mathematics in general. This is a cultural and social bias that seems to be more prevalent in mathematics than in other areas of study. Unfortunately, students grow up immersed in this hostile environment and begin to believe mathematical myths. Again, with the help of a sympathetic listener, students should eventually realize that their fear of math class and math tests is irrational. Worry and nervousness about an upcoming test is normal and treatable. Keeping your anxiety level at a manageable level is the first step to being prepared for your next exam.
The next key component to overcoming test anxiety in math class is being prepared. Of course, this is common sense advice, but it is forgotten if the student has elevated this concern from an “I’m not ready” level to a “I can’t do it” or “I’ll never make it” level. . .
In the second article in this series I discussed how to deal with homework problems. If students have improved their use of homework time and maintained higher quality standards for their assignments, they will be better prepared for tests. If they haven’t been doing their homework to “avoid the math”, test environments will continue to be a huge challenge.
Since students are able to dissipate their stress level by understanding their fear and have worked hard to do their homework, now what can they do on test day? Using smart test-taking strategies is the final piece of the puzzle.
To be a more effective examiner, students must be able to use the time given effectively. Looking at the clock and worrying about the time will only increase your anxiety level. Here are some suggestions:
1. Take the time to review the entire test in the first 5 minutes to get a feel for what concepts are covered and what format the test uses.
2. Mark the easiest problems and the hardest problems.
3. Do the easiest problems first to gain confidence.
4. Get to the mid-level problems below, keeping in mind to move on if you feel stuck.
5. Save the hardest ones for last.
6. Finally, try the ones you skipped. Use smart guessing strategies only as a last resort. Correction of small errors.
7. Be proud that you did your best!
Students must be physically prepared to sit for a test and do their best. Drink adequate water the day before and bring a water bottle to the test site to stay properly hydrated. The day before the test and the morning of the test, students should have eaten nutritious and energy-rich foods without too much sugar and salt. (Fries and chips, high sugar and caffeine drinks are never a good idea!) The student should also have gotten plenty of sleep the night before.
As students prepare before the test, they need to find out what other resources they are allowed during the test. Will the teacher allow notebooks, flashcards, past assignments or study sheets or sample problems? If so, organize and prepare them; reread or rewrite them as needed. Work with other students in study groups, or use an online tutor, and discuss examples similar to those you think will be on the test. That time and effort of preparation will pay off!
Fear of math is a common experience for all of us. What is not common, however, is to allow ourselves to be handcuffed to the point of freezing and blocking our ability to solve the problem for ourselves. Suffering in isolation is not the answer; avoiding the subject may not work; Not seeking help won’t make the problem go away either. By discussing with others who can listen, students can understand that math anxiety is common and can be resolved. Using smart homework strategies and putting effort into test preparation will boost your self-confidence and overcome your fear of math.
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