For math-phobic, numbers pose threat of pain, study says
November 1st, 2012
04:57 PM ET

For math-phobic, numbers pose threat of pain, study says

You're at a big group dinner and it's time to pay up, to divide the total and multiply a certain percentage for the tip. How many people tense up and say something like, "Oh, I'm so bad at math"?

Fear of math is everywhere – in the adult world where there aren't official pop quizzes, and in schools where the next generation of scientific problem-solvers are struggling with homework.

Researchers report in a new study in the journal PLoS One that this anxiety about mathematics triggers the same brain activity that's linked with the physical sensation of pain.

"I’m really interested in understanding the source of the anxiety so that we can help all students perform up to their best in this important area," says Sian Beilock, a University of Chicago researcher and one of the study's authors, who is also the author of the book “Choke.”

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Filed under: Kids' health • Math
soundoff (2 Responses)
  1. MCR

    One serious problem is that today kids of wildly different ability levels are lumped together in the same class. Seeing others in their class daily outperforming them is demoralizing to kids who are having a hard ti me, and they just give up. You don't need to track kids forever; give them lots of opportunity to move into different sections, but you do need to provide a safe environment with kids who are moving at a similar pace.

    November 3, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
  2. Squeezebox

    Some adults were educated by the "Sisters of the Right Cross". Others had parents whose idea of "help" with homework was to hit the kid every time he got the answer wrong.

    November 2, 2012 at 4:36 pm |