Lifestyle & Belief

Math-fearing minds are different than their peers


Math anxiety found to be a biological event similar to other forms of anxiety, say researchers.


Christoper Furlong

Children with high levels of anxiety when presented with math problems have different brain functions than their calmer peers.

According to Psych Central, research at Stanford University School of Medicine have found that anxiety displayed by students confronted with math problems is a biological event that appears similar to other kinds of anxiety.

The study saw 50 second and third graders separated into two groups: low math anxiety and high.

Both groups did math problems while having their brains scanned.

They found that children with a high level of math anxiety were slower and less able to solve problems.

Health Imaging reported that the children with math anxiety also had decreased activity in several brain regions associated with working memory and numerical reasoning.

“Children who said they had math anxiety had greater responses in the areas of the brain implicated in processing negative emotions like fear, particularly the amygdala,” said Vinod Menon to ABC News, a co-author and professor at Stanford. “We also saw reduced activity in areas normally associated with mathematical problem solving.”

The effects of math anxiety on children and even adults remains unclear but may have an impact on choice of school classes and career choices.

This may have an effect on long-term professional success.

“Math anxiety is underappreciated in young children, but it is very real and very stimulus-specific,” Menon said, according to ABC. “These children do not have high levels of general anxiety.”

According to Medical News Today, Menon went on to say, "You cannot just wish it away as something that's unreal. Our findings validate math anxiety as a genuine type of stimulus- and situation-specific anxiety."