The Cure for Math Anxiety Might Be in Your Head

It's all in your head: Brain researchers think mental concentration and learning to control emotions could be the key to overcoming math anxiety.

For students who tense up when presented with a math problem, nothing is more annoying than hearing that the problem is "all in your head." But the latest research in Cerebral Cortex suggests that the most compelling cure to math anxiety might actually be a little bit of psychological preparedness.

Brain researchers have long seen math anxiety as a genuine and measurable emotional reaction that increases stress on the hypothalamus. Two University of Chicago academics, psychology professor Sian L. Beilock and doctoral candidate Ian M. Lyons, have researched the role of fear in math performance through something called "functional magnetic resonance imaging." The technology enables scientists to separate neural activity into two camps: the way the brain reacts when a student anticipates doing math, and the way it reacts when the student is actually performing the problem. Their measurements revealed that the key to boosting students' math performance isn't through remedial teaching, but through providing students tools to cope with their fears.

The researchers wrote that students' ability to "call upon the frontoparietal regions" of the brain "before the math task has even begun" is key. That means that if students can be taught to focus themselves mentally and control their emotions—through meditation or other kinds of centering exercises—they might indeed be capable of overcoming their anxiety.

About as many people suffer from severe math anxiety as have dyslexia. So finding a cure could have a life-changing impact on a significant portion of the population. At a time when increasing the number of students enrolled in STEM fields is a national priority, this research could help students who might have once said "I'm not a math person" to join a new generation of mathematicians, scientists, and engineers.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user vortistic

via International Monetary Fund / Flickr and Streetsblog Denver / Flickr

Seventeen-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg made a dramatic speech Tuesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

In her address, she called for a public and private sector divestment from fossil fuel companies

"Immediately end all fossil fuel subsidies and immediately and completely divest from fossil fuels. We don't want these things done by 2050, or 2030 or even 2021 — we want this done now," she said.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin mocked the teenager on Thursday during a press briefing in Davos.

Keep Reading
The Planet

Even though marathon running is on the decline, half a million people signed up to participate in the 2020 London Marathon. It seems wild that someone would voluntarily sign up to run 26.2 miles, but those half a million people might actually be on to something. A new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that running a marathon can help reverse signs of aging.

Researchers at Barts and University College London looked at 138 first-time marathon runners between the ages of 21 and 69. "We wanted to look at novice athletes. We didn't include people who said they ran for more than two hours a week," Dr. Charlotte Manisty, the study's senior author and cardiologist at University College London, said per CNN.

Keep Reading
via David Leavitt / Twitter and RealTargetTori / Twitter

Last Friday, GOOD reported on an infuriating incident that went down at a Massachusetts Target.

A Target manager who's come to be known as "Target Tori," was harassed by Twitter troll David Leavitt for not selling him an $89 Oral-B Pro 5000 toothbrush for a penny.

He describes himself as a "multimedia journalist who has worked for CBS, AXS, Yahoo, and others."

Keep Reading