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Prepare to Be a SuperSTAAR!

April and May used to be two of my favorite months when I was in school.  Classes were coming to an end and my friends and I were already making plans for a fun, summer break.

Unfortunately, April and May are now two of the scariest months to many students due to STAAR testing and the potential for a summer-school bootcamp.  STAAR is the state’s student testing program.  The STAAR is more rigorous than previous state tests. The majority of new STAAR assessments test material students learn in their current year of school. In contrast, TAKS high-school level tests were required by law to test content studied over several previous years.  Also, for the first time since the state began its standardized testing program, the STAAR tests have a time limit. Unless a student is eligible for an accommodation, each student has four hours to complete each assessment. 

One of the biggest complaints we hear is how scared students are of the STAAR test and how they feel like they have failed before they have even started.  An enormous amount of pressure is being placed on our students to perform well.  Larry Martinek, the creator of Mathnasium, describes the scenario well: The bell rings and everyone takes their seats. The teacher passes out the test and, with sharpened pencils, everyone prepares to turn the page and begin. The student next to you flips open the first page and seems to begin answering questions with ease. Time seems to speed up, nervousness kicks in, and you stare at the first test question but forget how to complete it, even after having studied the material over and over. Panic rises and before you know it, the hour is done, the test is over, but the innate fear of it all hasn’t subsided. Parents, this is what we call “math anxiety.” Numbers on a page not only confuse some children, but can also potentially give them full-blown anxiety. This “math anxiety” is intense and feels similar to stage fright.

Seeing our students feel defeated is not what we want, but how do we fix this?  At Mathnasium, we have been preparing students for these types of tests for nearly twelve years.  In many cases, math anxiety comes from a student’s memorization of the correct procedure and routine to solving a problem, as opposed to developing a core understanding of the problem. When this happens, children quickly forget what they’ve learned, and anxiety sets in. One way to sharpen these skills and avoid math anxiety is through math instruction outside of school. Not only do we want our students to be successful in their current grade, but we also want them to be successful on all standardized tests and future grades.  To do this, we have been taking “math anxiety” out of the picture and replacing it with “math confidence.”  We want the students to be able to understand why math works the way it works and not simply memorize steps to solving certain types of problems.  We are not bound by TEKS and grueling timelines; but rather, we allow students to learn at their own pace, focusing on their weak areas while reinforcing their strengths. 

It is a misconception that extra help is only for children falling behind in school. Whether your student is making A’s or F’s throughout the school year, this is no guarantee how they will perform on the STAAR.  Consistent, additional lessons and preparation are not only beneficial for kids struggling with the material, but they also benefit those students who understand the material and want to strive for further concept and skill development. We want to see our kids keep up with the expected standards, not just try to catch up with daily lessons.  By giving them every opportunity to learn math in a way that makes sense and gain confidence, you will be setting your students up for future success – on STAAR and in life.  Join us at Mathnasium, and make the long-term commitment to take math anxiety out of the picture and help your student become a SuperSTAAR!

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