# Blind panic in maths tests - how to help?

Discussion in 'Personal' started by Doglover, May 26, 2011.

1. ### Doglover

Thanks RF, I was hoping you might be around. There are lots of issues, and I fear some of them are very simplistic indeed, so your approach might work.
I think somehow, she has missed a lot of the basics, because her teachers and ourselves have taken her understanding for granted, and that is why maths seems so "unnatural" to her.
For example, last night, we were looking at simplifying equations - it was something quite simple along the lines of " ? x + ? = ? + ? x". She just couldn't get it, and I understand that because at her age I didn't get it either. So I asked her if she understood that these were 2 separate things which had to be figured out, and that the first part, although it contained different numbers and operations, would give the same answer as the second part. I suggested that she substitute the = sign, for the words "the same as". Her response knocked me for six. She said that it was the first time she had realised, that = meant "the same as". She said that she could see for the first time that "9 + 3 is the same as 12", and now it was so much more clear.
That seems such a fundamental thing. All this time, she has known that 9 + 3 = 12, but she had only ever seen it as a sum, if you like, and never made the connection, that when you add the two numbers together, the answer is the same as 12.
I am not explaining it very well, but it was a real "eureka!" moment for her.
I wonder how many other things does she not really get the meaning of, and if that is part of the reason that maths seems so insurmountable to her.
Bethannie, thank you. Something we have been talking to her a lot about recently, is trying to accept that although she is like all her peers, in so many way, there are certain things about Asperger's Syndrome, which are individual to her, and she needs to learn to recognise how her Apsergers affects her. We have told her that everyone has unique difficulties, Aspergers or not, but that it is important for her to learn about hers.
I think part of the problem was that she didn't know how to get across to the teacher that she was feeling the way she was, and I think this is something we need to deal with for tomorrow and the future. She needs to know exactly what to do, so that there is no doubt in her mind about how she can escape from the situation, even if only to gather ther thoughts.
They are not supposed to have phones in school, during exam week, but I am sure we can work something out, even if it means handing the phone into reception for the duration of her exams. The recptionist is fantastic, and she is actually going to email the SENCO tonight, so that she is fully aware in the morning, and can put something in place first thing.
The relationship between the TA and her, is not as good as we hoped, and this is a lot to do with my daughter, tbh. She just doesn't want to have a TA at all, and the fact that her TA is not always very subtle in her approach is making things worse.
The other problem is that they have to sit beside a boy from a different year group for the tests, and they are in the same room as them for the whole day, in fact the whole week. There is a smell in the room she doesn't like.
I suppose during the exams she has been confident in, all this hasn't mattered, but when she became stressed today, it all became too much for her.
In any case, I am straying from the maths problem. I do really feel though, that the maths problem is something we really need to sort sooner rather than later. She can do a lot of the maths, but she just absolutely hates the subject, and sees herself as being useless at it.
Incidentally her use of maths in every day life, where she doesn't realise it is maths, is very good.

2. ### Doglover

Bethannie, I also meant to say, that her decision making is not good, so where it is clear what she is being asked to do, she can do it, but where it is not, she has great difficulty in deciding what method she has to use to work something out.
Also, she doesn't like to commit on paper, unless she knows it is right, so she will leave something out, rather than take the chance of it being wrong.
She leaves questions out, with the intention of going back, but when the panic sets in, everything spirals out of control, including any sense of time she has, so inevitably she never gets time to go back.

3. ### BethannieNew commenter

Just a few thoughts....
I really understand the problem of the room smelling wrong! Is there any scent/aftershave that she feels is a 'safe' scent? If she could bring a handkerchief in woth that scent on she could take a quick sniff whenever the 'unsafe' scent becomes onerpowering. (Sorry! I tend to talk about saf/unsafe things!)....If she can't think of a 'safe' scent maybe this is something to work on for next time?
Not commiting wrong ideas to paper...I used to insist on starting again on a new sheet if I made a spelling mistake!....So, could she have an extra sheet of paper in the exams - one she uses for scribbling down her thoughts or trying out two methods before deciding which works? If possible, she could hand this in too - it might help the Maths teacher see how her mind works...or she can bring it home and it will give her a memory-jog for telling you what the questions were like.
Could her Maths teacher help with decoding the questions? If she knows that often in Maths problems there will be a word that tells you what method you should be using.
Finally - just a little reassurance - I really struggled with Maths at her age - I was actually very bright at the subject but at this age all the rules failed to make sense! (And if there are rules they need to make sense!...and be consistent!) For example sqaure roots - I still remember being told you 'can't do' the square root of a negative number. This made no logical sense to me and I never really understood what was happening with square roots and why they only worked for some numbers... until I read about complex numbers and realised that my teacher was wrong/mistaken/a big-fat-liar! (or just didn't realise her unfortunate choice of words to an Aspie!)......and I think you know my degree is in Maths - once it started to make sense, I blossomed!

4. ### Doglover

In her early school years, maths was one of her greatest strengths. She hated words, but loved numbers.
However when it came to learning tables, she lost all confidence, as it took her a long time, to be able to learn and recall tables. Even now, when she is tired, there are times when she can barely add 2 and 2.
Her general recall of facts is fantastic though, so I don't know what has happened with the tables.
Tomorrow, she has 3 subjects she is fairly confident it. And she finishes with a creative writing based English exam, and she really excels in this. For several years now, teachers have been telling her she has a quality in her writing, that they don't often see - if only she would learn to spell properly
She will be completely devastated if she does badly in this.
She is strong in other mathematical based subjects - chemistry, physics, technology, geography etc. But she doesn't see the maths as maths there.

5. ### ResourceFinder

The teen is sitting GCSEs and she has a blue bracelet I bought her that she wears whenever revising and then in the exams ... for her blue is a calming colour so she looks at it and it helps her recall

A friend's daughter uses Jasmine oil ... a dab before she goes into exams helps her to focus

6. ### BethannieNew commenter

I couldn't do my 'tables' until I was 13 or 14 (and despite an honours degree I still pause and think over the 7s and 8s....but I get them right!)
There are 'tricks' to learning some of the tables. If it is a lack of confidence then I used to show learners how to do 'party tricks' like rapidly multiplying any 2 digit number by 11 - and it builds confidence. For the 'basic' time-tables is the teacher trying different methods?
I'm sending her big hugs - hope she has a better exam day tomorrow!

7. ### henrietteNew commenter

I found this article in the Boston Globe a while ago - it may offer some suggestions:

A simple writing exercise can relieve students of test anxiety and may help them get better scores than their less anxious classmates, a study has found.
A report in the journal Science says students who spend 10 minutes before an exam writing about their thoughts and feelings can free up brainpower previously occupied by testing worries.&ldquo;We essentially got rid of this relationship between test anxiety and performance,&rsquo;&rsquo; said Sian L. Beilock, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Chicago and coauthor of the study with graduate student Gerardo Ramirez.
Psychologists, educators, and parents have long known that the way students perform on a test does not necessarily indicate what knowledge they bring to the table. Test anxiety can lead to poorer grades and lower scores on standardized tests and college entrance exams.
The researchers found that students who were prone to test anxiety improved their test grades by nearly one grade point if they were given 10 minutes before an exam to write about their feelings. The researchers tested their hypothesis with college students in a lab setting and with high school students in the classroom, by first gauging the level of anxiety and then offering the writing intervention to some.
The researchers believe worrying competes for computing power in the brain&rsquo;s &ldquo;working,&rsquo;&rsquo; or short-term, memory. If working memory is focused on worrying, it can&rsquo;t help a person recall information the brain has stored. It also affects the working memory&rsquo;s ability to stay focused. Beilock said the idea for the writing exercise came from the use of writing to combat depression.
&copy; Copyright 2011 Globe Newspaper Company.

8. ### Doglover

Thanks all, at the moment she seems completely zoned out, and is tearful at the thoughts of tests tomorrow.
We will see how things go. She has to learn to manage herself in tests, but we have to balance that at the moment with possible long term problems, if she continues to be so anxious. Three tests a day for 5 days, is hard going for them, at that age, I think.
That is a great article Henriette. They get a short period of revision before each test, so that is something she could do in that time, if she thought it would help. I will talk to her about it.

9. ### lurk_muchOccasional commenter

My solution would be to keep her out of school when they have the tests. SATs and what have you are all a load of government micro managerial bottom grapes. Don't bother with them.

10. ### Doglover

Lurk much, there are just end of year tests, not SATs or anything. They do do end of unit tests in every subject to check their learning progress, so I suppose you have to question their value, but I suppose they are good when working towards the end goal of GCSE :/

11. ### lurk_muchOccasional commenter

Who are they running this prison camp for?

12. ### Doglover

Don't all schools have christmas and end of term tests? The primary and secondary schools all have test week here - even in P1/reception?
We have just had full scale meltdown and she says she can't do anymore revision/tests.
She is trying to think about the advantages of doing them versus the advantages/disadvantages of not doing them, and having them linger over the bank holiday weekend.
We will speak to the Senco in the morning.
This is the first time she has ever done tests like these - at Christmas she was sick, and did them outside of normal test setting, in the library.
She really has been in a dreadful state for the past hour, and we have sent her off to have a shower, and try and relax.
She is planning a sleepover tomorro night with her friend to celebrate - so at least she has that to look forward to.

13. ### daydreamer86

Exam anxiety has never been a big problem for me although I did get into a very tearful state just before my GCSE French Oral exam and I have got a bit tearful with certain mock papers but this was always because I feared I wouldn't get good grades rather than being bothered by the process of the exam itself. I feel for your daughter. One of my college friends, who does not have Aspergers or any other learning condition, used to get so nervous before every exam at college that she would vomit and she was allowed to take it in a separate room on her own to reduce her exam anxiety (I think the formality of the exam hall made her even more nervous) and this really helped her. Perhaps this could benefit your daughter.

Daydreamer86 (formerly Aspie Girl).