When you’re stressed and overwhelmed, make a list

When you’re stressed and overwhelmed, make a list

When you’re stressed out and you know it, and you really want to show it,
When you’re stressed and overwhelmed, make a list.

Did you catch the ‘If you’re happy and you know it’ children’s song reference there? When I was going though a tough time earlier this year, a good friend told me something similar. The song and her revised lyrics got stuck in my head and made me smile even when I was overwhelmed, underslept and trying to work out the next best thing to do.

With HSC, IB, and yearly exams completed, and the summer holidays approaching, you may think it’s a strange time to be talking about anxiety and overwhelm. However we all know that Christmas can be a chaotic time of year. For a student, add to that thoughts about their upcoming reports and thinking ahead about next year and it’s understandable they feel worried and don’t know what to do.

One of the best ways I know to deal with stress is to brain dump all those swirling, chaotic thoughts onto a piece of paper. Usually it’s a piece of scrap paper so I don’t feel pressured to try and structure my thoughts or write them neatly into a nice lined journal. Scrap paper gives me the freedom to write messy, underline key ideas, draw lines all over the page and, if I want, to scrunch it up when I’m done.

Once my thoughts are on paper, I have a visual idea of what’s making me anxious and from there I can triage. I like to sort my messy, unstructured list into the following categories which I first heard about reading Sean Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens. (If you haven’t read it, I’d highly recommend buying a copy for your high-schooler this Christmas!):

  • Urgent and important;
  • Important but not urgent;
  • Urgent but not important;
  • Not urgent and not important.

This matrix makes it easy to distinguish my priorities from those things that feel urgent but aren’t as important as other tasks. I can then add time limits to my tasks and break big tasks like exam revision, reading a novel, or beginning a Major Work, into small, manageable steps that I can use to track my progress.

When our thoughts and emotions are in turmoil it can be really hard to ask for help. Making lists helps to link our feelings to facts. Once I know what pressures I’m facing, I am better able to communicate them to those around me and ask for support. For example, if I’m worried that I’m a slow reader and know I’ll have to read a few books in English next year, once I put that feeling into words, I can ask my teacher for next year’s reading list so that I can get a start on it over the summer break.

Learning is not done in isolation but in families and communities. Parents often tell me that they recognise the signs of stress in their child but they don’t know how to help because their child won’t open up to them. If this is you, consider asking them to write or draw a list of what’s going on for them and volunteer to help them prioritise. Ask them to think of who they could ask for support and encourage them to be proactive. This also allows you to see the ways you might be able to relive some of the pressure they feel.

Nepean Tutoring is open throughout the summer holidays to support and guide your child towards achieving their learning goals, so don’t hesitate to let your tutor know if you’d like some additional sessions in the holidays. If you’re new to the Nepean Tutoring family, simply Contact Us and we’ll connect you with the best tutor to support your child’s education.

(Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash)

What to do about maths anxiety

What to do about maths anxiety

Many students suffer from maths anxiety. The Australian Council for Educational Research estimates that around 20% of students are ‘highly maths anxious’. Signs of a high level of maths anxiety include avoiding the subject, inhibited memory for mathematical concepts, inability to focus, disinterest, and an overall negative attitude towards maths. Ultimately students who are highly maths anxious will avoid all subjects that include maths, which ultimately inhibits their learning and career opportunities.

Maths anxiety is not a diagnosable condition like anxiety disorders or other mental health conditions, however it is important to notice how your child talks about and approaches maths in order to recognise where they need help. Like most health conditions, early intervention can make a decisive difference.

Maths is weighed down by generations of negative myths. You’ve probably heard yourself that ‘maths is difficult’, or ‘maths is for smart people’, or ‘I don’t have a maths brain’. However, these ideas forget that maths is a language of its own, replete with its own symbols, logic, and vocabulary. Just as humans are wired to communicate through language, so too, humans are wired to be mathematicians in various capacities.

In his TED Talk, Australian mathematician, Eddie Woo, said: ‘Mathematics isn’t just about crunching numbers but rather about finding new ways to see problems so we can solve them by combining insight and imagination.’

Learning to understand the beauty and necessity of mathematics is fundamental for reducing maths anxiety. Here are a few examples:

  • Cooking: How many ¼ cup measures make up 1 ½ cups of flour? How much sugar do we need to make a double batch of cookies?
  • Shopping: Why is cooking from home is cheaper than eating out? How many kilos of bananas would equal $5.00 worth?
  • Decorating: How many paint tins do you need to re-paint the living room according to the formula on the tin? Will your child’s bed fit in the space between the wall and the door frame or should it sit under the window instead?

By creatively demonstrating the practicality of maths, we can decrease maths anxiety through frequent, real-life problem solving practice.

Similarly, students tend to feel less anxious about topic quizzes compared to formal exams. The informality of a quiz helps students to focus on a specific area of their knowledge and target their revision accordingly. Small check-ins like quizzes make the process of testing their knowledge less overwhelming.

Regularly monitoring a student’s progress and giving specific, timely feedback is essential for improvement. Regular feedback in small doses, one topic at a time, is more easily understood, less intimidating, and is much easier for the student to apply, compared to receiving a large amount of feedback at once.

Each student learns at their own pace and it is true that some learn mathematical concepts faster than others. Tutoring provides a focused, one-to-one approach to meet your child where they’re at. Our friendly tutors work with your child to set individual learning goals and devise a realistic plan to achieve them, giving specific, relevant, and timely feedback along the way. Our tutors are patient and empathetic, encouraging resilience, self-confidence, and a growth mindset which is an essential trait of successful learners.

By combining everyday talk about applications of maths practicality of maths with tutoring to provide regular feedback and support, you can help to maximise your child’s learning opportunities and reduce their maths anxiety. Contact Us today to see how our team can support your child’s learning.

(Photo by Jessica Lewis on Unsplash)

Online Maths Games: The Results Add Up

Online Maths Games: The Results Add Up

Gamification of learning is the idea of applying game principles (e.g. scoring points, competing with others, leader boards) to education to increase interest and engagement in learning.

Physical (non-digital) games are routinely used by teachers, especially in primary school, to encourage team work, participation, cooperation, and expend energy. In both primary and early high school, online maths games are used, like physical games, as an additional learning tool to make maths fun and interesting, especially as concepts become more complex.

There are countless examples of online maths games including coolmathsgames.com, Mathletics, and mathsisfun.com, which are used to practice addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, telling the time, fractions, percentages, and more in an entertaining way.

But do online games produce results or are they a distraction from serious learning?

Online maths games are not a substitute for instruction and explanation and must be balanced with other approaches to teaching. Educators and parents must be aware that games:

  • can be a distraction from learning if the student does not know the learning outcome or purpose of the game
  • may encourage a reliance on extrinsic motivators (e.g. peer recognition, status, grades) rather than intrinsic motivators (e.g. personal satisfaction, improved self-confidence)
  • might lead to the assumption that recall speed equals success.

There are, however, many benefits of gamification in learning, especially maths, such as:

  • Developing problem solving skills through experimentation and strategic thinking
  • Encouraging resilience and persistence
  • Giving students the freedom to fail, using mistakes as a motivator to try another way
  • Tailoring challenges at a level and pace appropriate to the individual’s ability
  • Providing an immersive medium to encourage focus and attention to learning
  • Inspiring curiosity, particularly in theoretical subjects
  • Developing computer literacy and confidence
  • Increasing retention through interactivity
  • Enhancing pattern recognition and understanding of numbers
  • Giving instant feedback and visible progress (rewards, level-ups, badges) which increases the desire to learn and improve.

Games are an excellent way of demonstrating that learning can be enjoyable and rewarding. Online maths games are especially useful for bridging the gap between the classroom and home because they provide a meaningful way of practicing concepts in a way that doesn’t attract the usual groans when ‘homework’ is mentioned.

If your child uses online maths games, a great way to support your child’s learning is to talk to them about what they are learning from the game. Try using conversation starters such as:

  • What skill are you practising?
  • What strategy did you use?
  • How would you change your strategy next time?

Encourage your child to reflect upon their learning and to remember that learning takes place in all areas of life: within and outside of the classroom, and, like reading, in real and virtual worlds.

Photo by Alex Haney on Unsplash