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Trouble with Math Tests

Education Expert Advice from Peggy Gisler, Ed.S. and Marge Eberts, Ed.S.

Q: My eight-year-old daughter does very well in school. She has problems with math, but when we work together at home going over math facts, she breezes through them. When faced with a written or oral test, she freezes up and totally forgets all that she knows. How can I help her?

A: Children need to acquire a solid foundation in math at each grade level in order to be successful at the next level. Your daughter is either in second or third grade. Here is a quick summary of what she should have mastered up to this point.

In first grade, she should have learned the basic addition and subtraction facts accurately up to 10. If she is in second grade, she will be reviewing these facts during the first part of the year. Then, she will learn to handle the facts up to 20 and be introduced to multiplication and division. By the time children reach third grade, they are expected to have mastered all their basic addition and subtraction facts and will continue working on the multiplication facts and corresponding division facts.

It's time to talk to your daughter's teacher. You need to determine whether your child's problems with math tests are due to test anxiety or poor recall of the basic math facts. If her problem is test anxiety, a few more minutes on timed tests might resolve the problem.

You can help your daughter prepare for tests by giving her practice tests in exactly the same format as her teacher uses. At first, let her take as much time as she needs, then gradually shorten the test time to what she'll experience at school.

Basic math facts need to be learned so that students can recall them instantly. Make a set of flash cards with your child. When she doesn't know a fact such as 3+4, have her lay out counters so she can see the problem and then write down the problem and answer. It's also helpful to learn strategies for solving the problems. For example, she can think of 3+4 as 3+3+1.

Besides using flash cards for drill, let your daughter practice her math skills through games. For board games, use a pair of dice instead of cards or a spinner.

More on: Expert Advice

Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts are experienced teachers who have more than 60 educational publications to their credit. They began writing books together in 1979. Careers for Bookworms was a Book-of-the-Month Club paperback selection, and Pancakes, Crackers, and Pizza received recognition from the Children's Reading Roundtable. Gisler and Eberts taught in classrooms from kindergarten through graduate school. Both have been supervisors at the Butler University Reading Center.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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