Q&A #3418

Math Solving

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From: Marielouise (for Teacher2Teacher Service)
Date: Mar 25, 2000 at 19:50:03
Subject: Re: Math Solving

In reading your above note I am led to assume that you are not a parent who
resides in the United States. I am not sure what you mean by "Streaming
Year" as it is a term with which I am not familiar. However, I think that I
understand your question to be related to your son's inability to perform on
an examination. If this is true, perhaps the following might help. I am
not sure what age your son is either so perhaps some of the answers will be
for students older than he is.

Math Anxiety is REAL!  Anxiety when taking tests is a real phenomena. When a
person is anxious the mind is confused, errors occur and the student
frequently gives up. Pressure to get a good grade, pressure to finish in a
set amount of time, and pressure to do everything exactly the way the teacher
thinks can all cause anxiety.  Try to tell the student to do as much of the
test that he can.  Tell him that one-half of the test done well is better
than attempting all of it and doing very poorly on all. Your approach and
the teacher's should be to reduce anxiety.  If after a time, it is not just
anxiety that is standing in the way but some other learning disability, your
problem is more complicated.  You will then need professional help.

There are several questions and responses in our archives similar to yours.

>When dealing with adults who have mental blocks when it comes to learning
>math, what is the best way to teach concepts like calculating finance
>charges, annual percentage rate and average daily balance?

The biggest thing is really helping them to develop confidence and
overcoming their math anxiety.  There is a great book, by Sheila Tobias
entitled Overcoming Math Anxiety. Although, it was published several years
ago, there are some interesting insights which can shed light on dealing
with folks who have had a history of trouble with mathematics, no matter how
practical.  The other issue, is not to make them feel stupid.  So break
things up so that the confidence can build and present it in a simple but
not simplistic fashion.  South Western had an old book Mathematics for
Everyday Living or Mathematical Competencies for Everyday which was meant
specifically for that purpose!

To expand on the above,  I have found that working with adults in college
classes is aided by the use of charts.  You might think that you are doing
the work for them.  What you are doing is providing the structure for their
thought process.  Map our solutions to problems by giving an example in a
chart with headings that tell you what to do.  Have the students then do
similar examples in the same chart.

This is another question and answer:

>Why can't I understand math and keep information in my head?

There could be several reasons. The first is to ask yourself do you really
understand it?  Do you take ownership of the knowledge?  If yes, then is it
test-taking that makes you lose the information. There are a lot of books
about math anxiety that might help you.

If you could give specific examples, we could offer more advice!

and another answer to the same question:

We cannot learn facts or skills in isolation.  That means that we have to
connect our new knowledge to our old knowledge.  When you are learning try to
see similarities (that means same ideas) or differences (that means the way
in which they are not the same) between what you are learning and what you
have already learned.  Try to be able to visualize something.  Memory work is
okay for parrots but not for students learning mathematics.  You have to
understand what it is you are learning and what it means.

And another set of resources:

>My daughter is in grade 8, however her math level is around grade 6. Ever
>since grade 6 she has been struggling. All math concepts for her grade
>level are a problem for her.  She is a strong student in all other academic
>subjects, except math, i.e.; we worked on fractions for a week at home
>before a test with some success, she could find the common denominator, she
>could multiply or divide or reduce a fraction, however when it came to the
>test she failed with a 32%. This has caused her confidence to fall to the
>point where she has a pre defeated attitude. Can you recommend a online math
>program or a math software program, or any literature on test anxiety?

I started looking at the Middle School Teachers' Place:


You might find other sites of interest for you from this page.

A listing of resources for reading on Girls' attitudes, self-expectations,
etc.  can be found at:


 -Marielouise, for the Teacher2Teacher service

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