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.”