Math Anxiety – Dealing with Fear of Failure

Posted on July 12, 2013

Not everybody loves math. In fact, some people report tension, apprehension, and fear when faced with the need to perform mathematical tasks as a part of everyday life. Not surprisingly, these highly math anxious individuals (HMAs) perform more poorly on math related tasks than individuals with low math anxiety, tending to avoid math classes and math-related career paths. But, understanding more about the neural underpinnings of high math anxiety may help educators develop better strategies for counteracting these tendencies, ultimately opening the door to more diverse career opportunities for HMAs.

Recently, scientists have begun to understand the differences in neural activity that may partially underlie math anxiety. A 2012 study found that when individuals with math anxiety anticipate a math task, they display increased activity bilaterally in the dorso-posterior insula — a region of the brain associated with threat detection and often with the experience of pain itself.

Interestingly, this area did not remain activated during the math task itself: it appears as if the anticipation of math is the painful part, not the actual doing of it. The higher the degree of anxiety, the more this area of the brain appeared to be active. This mechanism helps explain why individuals with high math anxiety avoid math — just thinking about doing it is painful to them!

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Category(s):Anxiety

Source material from Brain Blogger


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