Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Test scores and tears

Do your kids cry when they don’t score 100% on tests or exercises that involve some kind of reward? My 9-year old spent 10 minutes on the couch today bawling, because he forgot the $-sign in three of his math-test answers, which in our family warrants a 0.

I don’t push my kids very hard, I don’t make a big deal out of these things; I just tell them to fix the mistakes and encourage them to believe that by thinking about it, they won’t make them again. I have started trying to use carrots and rewards to eliminate unnecessary mistakes in works that they deliver. E.g. once/week I’ll tell them, “If you make less than 3 mistakes on this math lesson and mixed practice, you only have to do the lesson practice tomorrow, and can skip the mixed practice.” This is what we tried today; since William forgot the $-sign in three answers, and made two other minor mistakes (similar – forgot the units), he doesn’t get the reward today, but gets to try again tomorrow. No biggie, right? Wrong! This whole incidence resulted in a complete meltdown.

We don’t learn for testing - in fact, we have probably done just a fraction of the testing other kids have done at their school - but I do want my boys to develop skills that will help them score well, when testing becomes necessary later on in life. Eliminating silly mistakes is a step in this direction. But how to motivate it without tears and disappointment? Or maybe learning to handle failure is part of the educational experience?

Later today, William had a grammar test on which he scored 49/50. It cheered him up a little, but then of course he spent quite some time fretting about his one mistake.


  1. That is hard for both of you, I'm sure. I had so much exam anxiety in my 'school years' that I ended up with physical health problems around it. I've chosen to eliminate all testing and grading from my elementary aged children's education. I'm hoping by delaying adding that component that they will have the maturity to cope with it in a healthy way. Might bite me in the butt, though. Sometimes there's no right answer for the test that is parenthood, either! HAHA

  2. Thanks Kristi for reminding me of exam anxiety. I on the other hand don't think I had enough preparation, and felt like I was not properly prepared when tests became serious. Will use my kids as guinea pigs here, and keep you posted :)