Science, Math and Test Anxiety, BreakThru Learning Objectives

Dealing with Anxiety

Question: It’s 120 miles to Atlanta and you drive there at 60 miles per hour. How long will it take you to get to Atlanta?

Are you thinking about solving the problem or are you thinking, “Oh no? It’s one of those word problems?” If you are thinking “Oh no,” then you may be experiencing science and math anxiety.

Test Anxiety
Test Anxiety

BreakThru Learning Objectives

  • Explain why anxiety is described as a learned behavior.
  • Describe the relationship between anxiety and memory; give personal examples.
  • List the methods you have or wish to implement to reduce anxiety and improve your STEM performance.

Recognizing Anxiety

Factors Influencing Anxiety

  • I am scared about using chemicals. What if I hurt myself?
  • I can’t stand to look at the internal organs of frogs. The smell is horrible.
  • When I look at a math problem, my mind goes blank. I feel stupid, and I can’t remember how to do the simplest problems.
  • I’ve never been successful in any math class. Some people can do the math, some can’t. I can’t.

These students are expressing science/math anxiety, a feeling of intense frustration or helplessness about the ability to perform science or math. Science/math anxiety is a common problem for many high school and college students. Anxiety affects more than taking tests. It can also impact the way you do your homework, study, or even choose your career. When you are worried and anxious about studying or performing in academic situations, you may not be able to demonstrate your actual level of knowledge and skills. Understanding and reducing your anxiety can have a positive impact on your science/math performance.

Causes of Test Anxiety

Bad experiences with science and math beginning in elementary school are the leading cause of academic anxiety. Check out these flashbacks:

  • Difficulty memorizing multiplication tables
  • Problem understanding chemistry symbols
  • Failure to complete a math problem at the blackboard
  • Classmates finishing problems faster than you
  • Teacher saying, “You’re just not good in science or math”
  • Being called stupid or punished for not understanding

These experiences can become deeply rooted and form the basis of anxiety. Every time you open a science or math book to do homework or sit for a test, you replay those memories and believe you are not good in the subject. If you believe that you are not good in science or math, you probably will not do well.

Positive Self-Talk

All of us have an internal dialogue or self-talk. What we say to ourselves in response to an event determines our feeling about the event. As an example, a student starts saying to himself that he is going to fail the math test and might as well turn in his paper and drop the class. The negative self-talk (fail the math test) leads to feelings of anxiety and hopelessness.

How do think this student will perform on the test? Students with science or math anxiety usually use negative self-talk which can increase the anxiety, reduce the ability of the working memory to process information, and result in poor grades.

BreakThru Learning Objectives

  • Explain why anxiety is described as a learned behavior.
  • Describe the relationship between anxiety and memory; give personal examples.
  • List the methods you have or wish to implement to reduce anxiety and improve your STEM performance.

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