home
RSS
For math-phobic, numbers pose threat of pain, study says
October 31st, 2012
05:01 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.”

How they did it

Beilock and colleagues found 28 people - 14 with high math anxiety and 14 with low math anxiety - to explore what happens in the brain when confronted with potentially fearful math problems. Although this is a small sample size, it is not unusual for psychology experiments that involve functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which is a costly procedure.

The participants were asked to complete word problems and math problems while in the fMRI scanner. Before each task, a cue would appear indicating what type of problem (word or math) was going to come up next.

It was this anticipatory phase that interested the researchers.

What they found

When the participants with high anxiety about math saw that they would be presented with a math problem, researchers saw that these people had activation in the same neural areas associated with physical threats and bodily harm.

"It grounds the phenomenon in the evolutionarily ancient pain system that we often rely on when we are physically harmed," Beilock said.

This study did not find a gender difference, although other studies show that when it comes to anxiety about math ability, women show higher levels of worry than men, she said.

Implications

Obviously this is a small study, so further research is necessary to confirm the conclusions. Also the study showed an association between anticipating an event and a brain region, but this does not prove that one causes the other.

It does seem to be the case, though, that in American culture, math anxiety or lack of math skill is socially acceptable and commonplace, unlike other areas of study, Beilock said.

"You don't walk around bragging oftentimes that you can't read, but people often talk about how they're not number people or they hate math."

But people perform better when they don't view math as a scary subject. As to how to deal with anxiety, Beilock has also done research on that.

She led a 2011 study showing that writing about your anxieties before a test may actually improve your performance. She and colleagues tried the idea on kids in a ninth-grade biology class, and showed that the anxious kids who did the writing exercise tended to score better on a test.


soundoff (158 Responses)
  1. Jorge

    Some teachers are great, but some are such unhappy half-deads that if you told them to lie down in the street and moan derogatory profanities to every passerby, they would have exactly the same effect on society that they have in the classroom. It just so happens that a lot of them teach math.

    November 7, 2012 at 09:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Hemrid ingredients

    It is brilliant job to teach math. But there have problem if anyone can't make understand his student. We want more post here. Thanks for this post. For more information visit our site http://hemridreviews.com/

    November 8, 2012 at 13:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Zim Olson

    My wife, Ruth, made similar comments about my Mathematics and my work on my Mathematics that I call Zim Mathematics, my version of a Creative Math located at http://www.zimmathematics.com . What should I do?!

    November 11, 2012 at 20:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. curious4life

    I'm 23 and terrified of math, I got D's and F's in middle school and high school, whenever I'm confronted with ANY kind of math I want to run away. I agree with this article, it does feel like physical pain.

    November 19, 2012 at 21:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. SW

    It really depends what you mean by "basic math skills". I was a math geek in school (math teams etc.), but even though I have a master's and have worked in IT and programming and application development, I rarely use math I learned after about the middle of high school. I can’t say that we need the general population to be performing trigonometry, calculus or linear algebra on a regular basis. What I do find essential, however, is a basic understanding of statistics. This is necessary to do anything from understanding the news well enough to knowledgably vote to being able to vote. For anyone not going into maths and sciences, I’d much rather see students drilled on understanding what research studies mean (reading and evaluating studies) and intuitively understanding basic percentages and how to understand graphs.

    November 27, 2012 at 21:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. 行動電源

    Fantastic post. I appreciate your attention to this topic and I learned a lot 行動電源 http://www.powerbankland.com

    June 22, 2013 at 16:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Tim Gaufin

    Order Viagra Online

    http://www.3kX2uXkeMX.com/3kX2uXkeMX

    January 18, 2017 at 03:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. new business speaker

    Thank you for sharing your info. You deserve a hug right now.

    https://foursquare.com/user/447057064

    August 30, 2017 at 19:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Jesse Grillo

    I am going to follow you on Facebook. I just stumbled upon your blog. Guess I will just book mark this blog.

    http://GrilloeTORDyL.yelp.com

    August 31, 2017 at 19:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Dirk Mcgougan

    Unquestionably a great submit. Hats off for you! The knowledge that you've got supplied is very valuable.

    http://www.mercurialchaussurepascher.com/

    January 20, 2018 at 08:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Vera

    I contacted him for marriage help, He only said to me that i have come to the right place were i will be getting my heart desire without any side effect.He told me what i need to do,After it was been done,24 hours later,My Ex Husband called me on the phone and was saying sorry for living me and the kids before now and one week after my Husband called me to be pleading for forgiveness, I am so happy and overwhelmed that i have to tell this to the entire world to contact Robinson Buckler on his personal email address and get all your problem solve..No problem is too big for him to solve..He also cure herpes, Contact him for herpes cure too direct on: Robinsonbucler @{{gmail.}} com.https://robinbuckler. com....💕”💕”

    December 10, 2020 at 11:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. zortilonrel

    Sweet blog! I found it while browsing on Yahoo News. Do you have any tips on how to get listed in Yahoo News? I've been trying for a while but I never seem to get there! Many thanks

    http://www.zortilonrel.com/

    December 24, 2020 at 10:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Carlie Salais

    I do believe all the ideas you have introduced to your post. They are very convincing and will certainly work. Nonetheless, the posts are too quick for novices. May you please extend them a little from next time? Thank you for the post.

    https://www.electricpercolatorcoffeepot.com/10-top-coffee-bloggers/

    January 10, 2021 at 06:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. froleprotrem

    Have you ever considered writing an e-book or guest authoring on other websites? I have a blog based on the same information you discuss and would really like to have you share some stories/information. I know my visitors would appreciate your work. If you are even remotely interested, feel free to shoot me an e-mail.

    http://www.froleprotrem.com/

    January 14, 2021 at 15:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Ted Douds

    https://www.electricpercolatorcoffeepot.com/10-top-coffee-bloggers/

    January 21, 2021 at 12:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Europa-Road traktor szállítás

    You are my intake, I own few blogs and rarely run out from to post : (.

    https://europa-road.eu/hu/traktor-szallitas.php

    February 9, 2021 at 04:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. zortilo nrel

    I think this is one of the most important information for me. And i'm glad reading your article. But should remark on few general things, The site style is great, the articles is really nice : D. Good job, cheers

    http://www.zortilonrel.com/

    February 9, 2021 at 09:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. ClarkTauts

    eaatn uj2h7 qtb4

    March 1, 2021 at 20:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. buku mimpi togel 2d

    666247 505387I completely agree with you about this matter. Nice post. Already bookmarked for future reference. 139231

    March 4, 2021 at 15:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Peachtree Corners Concrete company

    74327 603049Id require to consult you here. Which isnt some thing Which i do! I enjoy reading a post that can make individuals feel. Also, appreciate your permitting me to comment! 362345

    March 13, 2021 at 07:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. sex offender registry map az

    271890 209210I recognize there is a great deal of spam on this site. Do you require aid cleaning them up? I might help in between courses! 595770

    March 31, 2021 at 03:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. read the article

    343295 709023hey there i stumbled upon your web site looking around the web. I wanted to tell you I enjoy the look of issues around here. Keep it up will bookmark for positive. 926342

    April 7, 2021 at 21:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. repliki zegarków breitling

    513729 260253Some truly nice stuff on this internet web site , I like it. 89555

    April 22, 2021 at 07:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Juuls pods

    116284 218133I took a break to view your write-up. I found it really relaxing 389657

    April 23, 2021 at 16:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Leandro Edenfield

    Have you ever heard of second life (sl for short). It is essentially a video game where you can do anything you want. SL is literally my second life (pun intended lol). If you would like to see more you can see these sl authors and blogs

    http://everydayliteracies.blogspot.com/2008/06/bye-bye-bo-bo-didley-1928-2008-rip-its.html

    May 10, 2021 at 20:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Josefine Spears

    This was awesome! I would like you to clean up all this spam though

    https://www.linkedin.com/in/yusuf-hanafy-82493b183

    May 12, 2021 at 03:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. storno brzinol

    Hi are using WordPress for your site platform? I'm new to the blog world but I'm trying to get started and set up my own. Do you need any coding knowledge to make your own blog? Any help would be really appreciated!

    http://www.stornobrzinol.com/

    May 15, 2021 at 20:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Armandina Pellam

    I don't know about you guys but I love airplanes. I had a friend in highschool that loved airplanes, so here are some airplane related stuff I don't know about you guys but I love airplanes. I had a friend in highschool that loved airplanes, so here are some airplane related stuff https://www.airlinereporter.com/2010/12/airline-livery-of-the-week-sterling-airlines/

    http://www.tulalipnews.com/wp/category/news/page/317/

    May 16, 2021 at 16:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Sylvie Kindermann

    Have you ever heard of second life (sl for short). It is essentially a video game where you can do anything you want. SL is literally my second life (pun intended lol). If you want to see more you can see these sl articles and blogs

    http://everydayliteracies.blogspot.com/2014/05/imagination-wanted-mobile-devices-in.html?showComment=1576666254108

    May 17, 2021 at 07:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Joelle Panagoulias

    I don't know about you guys but I am obsessed with airplanes. I have a friend in highschool that loves airplanes, so here are some airplane related stuff I don't know about you guys but I love airplanes. I had a friend in highschool that loved airplanes, so here are some airplane related stuff https://www.airlinereporter.com/2009/06/the-airline-blogs-livery-find-create-your-own/

    http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs151/1111846961938/archive/1119161431892.html

    May 17, 2021 at 23:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Bobette Kovalcheck

    I don't know about you guys but I am obsessed with airplanes. I have a friend in highschool that loves airplanes, so here are some airplane related stuff I don't know about you guys but I love airplanes. I had a friend in highschool that loved airplanes, so here are some airplane related stuff https://www.airlinereporter.com/2011/02/my-review-alaska-airlines-flight-from-tuscon-to-seattle-in-first-class/

    http://privatejetstoday.blogspot.com/2010/08/private-jet-flight-attendant-jobs.html

    May 19, 2021 at 04:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Felix Sundholm

    Have you ever heard of second life (sl for short). It is essentially a video game where you can do anything you want. SL is literally my second life (pun intended lol). If you want to see more you can see these second life websites and blogs

    http://myvedana.blogspot.com/2011/07/shop-fronts-and-shutters.html?m=0

    May 20, 2021 at 03:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Albert Gutherie

    Have you ever heard of second life (sl for short). It is basically a online game where you can do anything you want. Second life is literally my second life (pun intended lol). If you want to see more you can see these Second Life websites and blogs

    http://myvedana.blogspot.com/2006/06/hive-mind.html?m=0

    May 20, 2021 at 20:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Kristel Chivalette

    I don't know about you all but I am obsessed with airplanes. I had a friend in highschool that loves airplanes, so here are some airplane related stuff I don't know about you guys but I love airplanes. I had a friend in highschool that loved airplanes, so here are some airplane related stuff https://www.airlinereporter.com/2011/05/visual-goodness-from-general-aviation-day-2011/

    http://urlm.co/g/c/f/163873

    May 22, 2021 at 02:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Britany Gollin

    Have you ever heard of second life (sl for short). It is basically a game where you can do anything you want. SL is literally my second life (pun intended lol). If you would like to see more you can see these Second Life websites and blogs

    http://everydayliteracies.blogspot.com/2014/08/farewell-to-jack-shallcrass-splendid.html?showComment=1514969784304

    May 23, 2021 at 04:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Cleo Byther

    Have you ever heard of second life (sl for short). It is basically a online game where you can do anything you want. SL is literally my second life (pun intended lol). If you would like to see more you can see these sl websites and blogs

    http://adolit.blogspot.com/2007/11/video-cultural-commentaries-journal-of.html

    May 28, 2021 at 04:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. vao w88

    Great article.

    May 29, 2021 at 04:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Candance Magnia

    Have you ever heard of second life (sl for short). It is basically a game where you can do anything you want. Second life is literally my second life (pun intended lol). If you would like to see more you can see these second life authors and blogs

    http://rumblingstrips.blogspot.com/2008/03/it-didnt-even-take-30-minutes.html

    May 29, 2021 at 05:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. vao w88

    I blog frequently and I seriously appreciate your content.
    This article has truly peaked my interest. I am going to
    take a note of your website and keep checking for new details about once
    a week. I subscribed to your RSS feed as well.

    May 29, 2021 at 10:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. w88top

    What's up, yeah this article is actually fastidious and I have learned lot of things from it
    on the topic of blogging. thanks.

    May 29, 2021 at 23:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Santiago Asen

    Have you ever heard of second life (sl for short). It is basically a online game where you can do anything you want. sl is literally my second life (pun intended lol). If you would like to see more you can see these second life authors and blogs

    http://beyondnewhorizons.com/2009/05/finding-time/

    May 30, 2021 at 06:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Raymundo Randa

    Have you ever heard of second life (sl for short). It is basically a game where you can do anything you want. Second life is literally my second life (pun intended lol). If you would like to see more you can see these Second Life authors and blogs

    http://myvedana.blogspot.com/2006/09/bad-luck.html?m=0

    May 31, 2021 at 04:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Shawna Rosenthall

    This was awesome! I would like you to clean up all this spam though

    https://www.linkedin.com/in/yusufhanafy

    June 1, 2021 at 00:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Damien

    It's an remarkable paragraph for all the online users;
    they will obtain advantage from it I am sure.

    June 1, 2021 at 21:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Lecia Dezan

    Have you ever heard of second life (sl for short). It is basically a online game where you can do anything you want. Second life is literally my second life (pun intended lol). If you want to see more you can see these second life authors and blogs

    http://myvedana.blogspot.com/2011/09/more-virtual.html?showComment=1467097989318&m=0

    June 2, 2021 at 23:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Mauro Caudy

    This was awesome! I would like you to clean up all this spam though

    https://www.linkedin.com/in/yusufhanafy

    June 6, 2021 at 07:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. link w88 ko bị chặn

    Does your site have a contact page? I'm having a tough time locating it
    but, I'd like to send you an e-mail. I've got some creative ideas for your blog
    you might be interested in hearing. Either way, great blog and I look
    forward to seeing it grow over time.

    June 7, 2021 at 11:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Milford Veillon

    This was awesome! I would like you to clean up all this spam though

    https://www.linkedin.com/in/yusufhanafy

    June 9, 2021 at 10:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Lacy Desadier

    Have you ever heard of second life (sl for short). It is essentially a video game where you can do anything you want. sl is literally my second life (pun intended lol). If you want to see more you can see these sl authors and blogs

    http://myvedana.blogspot.com/2006/05/exotic.html?showComment=1149025080000&m=0

    June 12, 2021 at 15:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Ivey Laboe

    Have you ever heard of second life (sl for short). It is essentially a game where you can do anything you want. SL is literally my second life (pun intended lol). If you would like to see more you can see these second life articles and blogs

    http://myvedana.blogspot.com/2006/05/?m=0

    June 12, 2021 at 17:22 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3

Leave a Reply to Lecia Dezan


 

CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

Advertisement
About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.

Recent Comments
Archive
October 2012
M T W T F S S
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
293031  
  • An error has occurred, which probably means the feed is down. Try again later.