My Brain Hurts! (Worrying About Math)

When People Worry About Math, the Brain Feels the Pain

The gang over at ScienceDaily.com confirm what I have suspected all along!

The article begins, “Mathematics anxiety can prompt a response in the brain similar to when a person experiences physical pain, according to new research at the University of Chicago.”

I knew it!!

(Math anxiety: The pain in brain [1])

Using brain scans, scholars determined that the brain areas active when highly math-anxious people prepare to do math overlap with the same brain areas that register the threat of bodily harm — and in some cases, physical pain.

“For someone who has math anxiety, the anticipation of doing math prompts a similar brain reaction as when they experience pain – say, burning one’s hand on a hot stove,” said Sian Beilock, professor of psychology at the University of Chicago and a leading expert on math anxiety.

Surprisingly, the researchers found it was the anticipation of having to do math, and not actually doing math itself, that looked like pain in the brain. “The brain activation does not happen during math performance, suggesting that it is not the math itself that hurts; rather the anticipation of math is painful,” added Ian Lyons, a 2012 PhD graduate in psychology from UChicago and a postdoctoral scholar at Western University in Ontario, Canada. [2]

(My brain hurts!)

The work by Lyons and Beilock suggests that, for those with math anxiety, a painful sense of dread may begin long before a person sits down to take a math test.

This reaction needs to be addressed like any other phobia, the researchers said. Rather than simply piling on math homework for students who are anxious about math, students need active help to become more comfortable with the subject, Beilock said.

(University of Chicago psychology professor Sian Bielok)

Beilock’s work has shown, for instance, that writing about math anxieties before a test can reduce one’s worries and lead to better performance. [3]

aa-tribalfang

____________________________________________________________

[1] University of Chicago researchers have found that the higher a person’s anxiety about math, the more anticipating math activated areas of the brain related to experiencing pain. (Credit: Courtesy of Sian Beilock)

[2] The two report their findings in a paper, “When Math Hurts: Math Anxiety Predicts Pain Network Activation in Anticipation of Doing Math,” in the current issue of PLoS One.

[3] Story Source: The above story is reprinted from materials provided by University of Chicago. The original article was written by William Harms.

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2 comments on “My Brain Hurts! (Worrying About Math)

  1. renxkyoko says:

    Uhm…. math is beautiful if one really understands it.

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