For math-phobic, numbers pose threat of pain, study says
October 31st, 2012
06:38 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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soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Jorge

    I believe the mental association derives from years of coping with socially limited, right-brained math teachers who, because of their particular brain configuration, understand mathematical concepts perfectly, but have issues with empathy, patience, socialization and verbal, written conveyance of ideas. The industries of public education and psychology in this country have devised manifold ways of measuring and qualifying the student's potential ability to learn, but has anybody devised an accurate way of quantifying an educator's ability to TEACH???? After all, it's something that ALL OF US PAY FOR.

    November 1, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • John

      Not really fair, Jorge. I have a terrible time with math, but the five different teachers I had throughout my secondary education career in England through the '70s, Joe Payne, David Holmes, Barry 'Jock' Marsden, et al, were all perfectly well adjusted, very patient and pleasant. I even had beers with a couple of them after I graduated high school.

      November 1, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
  2. 3Davideo

    The same thing happens to me, but with social activities!

    November 1, 2012 at 6:00 am |

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