Math Anxiety, Quizzes, and Tests, Oh My!


First and most importantly, BREATHE! It’s only math. I know that if you have math anxiety, hearing those words are not that helpful, except it’s true. In this blog I want to talk about techniques to get over your math anxiety and do well on your quizzes and tests.

You have to actually LEARN the math. Probably this is also not that helpful if you have math anxiety, except it’s true. In all my years of teaching math I never found a student that couldn’t get over math anxiety by really mastering the material. This is the biggest part of your job. So, by learning the math, I mean you have to know your math stuff forward and backward, left and right BEFORE the week of the quiz or test. This doesn’t mean you just do your homework and figure you are ready. Only the top 1% of students can pull that off. The rest of us need to do the homework too, but we need to ask ALL the questions we can to really master the homework. Sitting in class during the review of homework and crossing your fingers won’t cut it. Check answers before you get to class if you can. When you get to class ASK! Ask a friend next to you or the teacher, but ASK! The only dumb questions are those you have that you never ask about. If one person doesn’t make sense to you, ask someone else. If you run out of time in class, ask to meet with the teacher after school, find a study buddy, or meet with a math tutor, but ASK! Learning ALL your homework as it comes to you, day in and day out will give your brain more time to process the math. When it comes time for the review for the quiz or test, you will already have had most of your questions answered and concepts mastered so you can actually review.

You have to REVIEW all the math before a quiz or test. So, a lot of people just look over their homework, maybe their handouts and call it good. But if you want to earn the best grade you can and GET RID OF YOUR MATH ANXIETY, you’ll have to come up with a different, more intense way to review. Think of it this way. Does Stephen Curry, NBA star, just practice his 3 point baskets until he makes the first basket and then stop? No way, he has to practice, then practice, then practice some more. You do need to do the review if the teacher provides you with one. This should not be overly hard since you already asked and mastered the homework. But, anything you try and get a wrong answer or have no idea how to do, MARK it. Continue with the review and do all the problems you can without looking at your notes or homework. Don’t worry about those you don’t quite get yet. Don’t stress over this. Do as much as you can on your own. Then go back and ask another student or the teacher how to do the ones you missed. Keep these problems marked even after you figure out how to do them. Then when it is time to study on your own, go back over the review and see if you can do the problems you marked. Write those problems on a fresh sheet of paper and without looking at the review, see if you can do it. If you get it right, great. If you had to look at the review, then you need to dive into your textbook and find more problems like the one you missed. Do those textbook problems until you feel like you have confidence in the concepts. Practice like Stephen Curry until you have it down cold. This is one of the secrets of people that get “A’s” in math. Practice, Practice, then practice again. If you still have time in your studying, then try to do the review problems again without looking at the paper. Ask your teacher for an extra copy of the review to take home. Your teacher will be thrilled with your motivation. Mark any you still don’t have down and repeat the process.

If you are still really anxious, I have a few tricks you can try. These are all based on actual research. Plus, I helped students get over their anxiety using these steps as well. It works! Before the class starts if you feel nervous, take out a blank piece of paper. I want you to write EVERYTHING out that you are anxious or nervous about, “I’m gonna fail.”, “I won’t remember anything.”, “I’m going to look like a fool.” whatever it is for you. Research has shown that admitting the fears, writing them down and then THROW THE PAPER in the trash actually can reduce the math anxiety. Next trick is to eat a peppermint about 15 minutes before a test. It has to have REAL peppermint and it can’t be spearmint. It’s has to be peppermint. The peppermint has been proven to reduce stress. The next trick is easy, BREATHE. Take a deep breath, hold it and release it. Do this at least 3 times before the test. This will calm you down also. Now you have done all you can to get rid of the math anxiety. You studied until you mastered the math, wrote down your fears and threw them away, and popped a peppermint. You got this!

When you get your quiz or test, go through it like you did the review. Do all the problems you know how to do without thinking first. Leave the rest and don’t worry about them right now. After you do all of those problems, go back and do all the problems you think you know, but aren’t sure. Make sure you show all your work and move on. Lastly, attempt any other problems you haven’t finished yet. Do NOT leave them blank. Any attempt is likely to get you points, so try them all. Chances are you do have a pretty good idea how to do the problems from when you did homework. When you are done with the test, if there is time left, go back over all your work and make sure you showed all the work, double check your answers, and make sure nothing is blank. Hand it in and don’t sweat it anymore! You did everything you could, be proud of your hard work!

Good luck with your math class. I know you CAN do it!

I hope these tips help you with your math anxiety or even just help you review and study for a test. If you found this blog helpful, feel free to share it. My name is Terri Grigsby and I’m a teacher and math tutor. I tutor online and in person. Check out my website for more blogs on math at www.tagtutoring.com If you are interested in getting more help with your math, I’d love to tutor you. Just fill out the contact information.

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