Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Study: Math Anxiety Rattles the Best Brains

Posted By on Tue, Sep 18, 2012 at 9:43 AM

Struggle with math? You're not alone. In fact, a new study confirms that math anxiety affects some of the nation's best young brains.

Researchers at the University of Chicago found that math anxiety often affects the highest achievers, whose memories are better than the rest. The study looked at 88 first-graders and 66 second-graders to determine the scope and breadth of math anxiety and who suffers from it.

Researchers looked at students in a big city school system and found that the highest achievers often tended to be the ones who suffered most from a fear of math. Those students who did not rely on their so-called "working memory" and were often less intelligent fared better than their peers who tried to juggle problems in their heads instead of on their fingers.

Researchers wrote that anxiety created by math often works to disrupt memory, making problems more difficult to solve. The math anxiety even undermined students' performance in the future, often putting them at least a half a year behind their peers.

Yet, the education-based Red Orbit website wondered whether math anxiety was really just performance anxiety. In an editoral, they asked whether it was maybe just the personality of the child rather than a diagnosable problem.

"We should also consider how some of the first- and second-graders’ personalities may have been a factor," the site wrote. "More introverted children may have experienced some anxiety less from the math and more from needing to interact with someone else."

The findings will be published in the Journal of Cognition and Development.

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