Many students get tense, anxious, or nervous when they face math problems. Besides being unpleasant, anxiety creates a negative feedback loop - when anxiety uses some attention or memory, there is less left over to handle the math they are asked to do. By acknowledging anxiety or worry students have about performing math, or taking a test, beforehand, they can "clear their mind" of those worries and leave more working attention and memory allocated to the math tasks themselves. Researchers discovered that simply writing about their feelings for as little as seven minutes before they start a math task can really boost student performance (Park et al. 2014) - after reflecting on their worries, people with high levels of anxiety perform more like those with no math anxiety!
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