As I talk to parents, a student’s anxiety towards learning math or spelling is often discussed. I often hear “We just open the math book and they burst into tears” or “We’re doing flashcards and we’re doing drills” and they are finding their student is overwhelmed and starts to panic.
Students can associate learning with a bad experience, when they felt embarrassed, judged, stressed, or felt like they were falling behind. These feelings are likely triggers for your student’s anxiety towards learning. You’ll need to work with your student to do some cognitive remapping and make learning a safe and comfortable place. While there is not a one size fits all program for achieving this our Math-U-See and Spelling You See programs are set up to help address anxiety issues. Here are some basic ideas that bring success for the particularly anxious student.
1) Find the Proper Placement
First of all, correct placement is vital. The beauty of both Math-U-See and Spelling You See is that students are not placed by grade level. Instead, students are placed by their current set of skills. Taking the focus off grade levels and away from comparing progress to another student can help students with anxiety. This is why we give each level a name, rather than assigning a grade level. If a student is the age of a sixth grader but working on skills and concepts that are normally presented in a lower grade level, our materials do not show that.
2) Go At Your Student’s Pace
The feeling of falling behind can be hard and be a big contributor to anxiety. Students are often expected to be moving through lessons and processing information at the same rate as others. We need to recognize that each student’s developmental pace is different and be aware of your student’s pace. Pushing ahead when a student isn’t ready can lead to gaps in understanding and more anxiety. As you regularly work with your student, you will get the sense of when the right time is to move forward. As you use workbooks, keep in mind, they are not meant to dictate how fast or slow a student is going. Students should be encouraged to go at the pace they need to achieve mastery and understanding.
3) Teach and Build on Fundamental Skills
Teaching concepts and skills in a logical sequence can ease anxiety, allowing students to build on the information and knowledge they have gained from previous lessons. Students should master the concept or skill prior to moving onto the next lesson, keeping in mind this progression should be as fast or slow as your student needs to show they have achieved mastery. Lessons in both Math-U-See and Spelling You See concentrate on a specific set of skills or concepts. As a student progresses through a level, concepts are continuously reviewed and new concepts are integrated, building a solid foundation for future lessons and building confidence.
4) Commit Information to Long Term Memory
While flashcards, drills or word lists can be helpful to some students, these tools can also be a real source of anxiety and often do not commit the information to long term memory. Our programs don’t ask students to just memorize formulas or spelling lists. In Spelling You See students work in the context of a written paragraph that is interesting and becomes familiar, rather than memorizing a word list for a test on Friday. In Math-U-See a student may forget the formula, but with the knowledge of the concept they are able to work through the problem. Both Math-U-See and Spelling You See are incredibly efficient at helping students take new concepts and skills and successfully commit them to long term memory.
Utilizing these strategies can help you change the experience your student has and make learning fun, safe, and successful. Both Math-U-See and Spelling You See products are designed to provide support for the anxious student. If your student is struggling or showing signs of anxiety towards learning math or spelling we are here to help.
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