Monday, November 05, 2012

If Love Stinks....Math Hurts

For some people, working out various mathematical problems is horrible, stressful, painful even.

From a Wired -UK article:
  • some people who dislike math do so because the thought of working out things with numbers is experiential similar to physical pain. For people with “high levels of mathematics-anxiety”  maths hurts.
Researchers from the University of Chicago and Western University were intrigued by studies that had shown that some people experience anxiety while doing math problems at approximately the same levels of anxiety that people feel while experiencing social rejection.  These studies showed that some of those with high levels of anxiety during these social situation actually experience the anxiety as physical pain.

In their papers, the researchers from the University of Chicago and Western University noted that even the expectation of doing math generated anxiety and which would in turn generate pain.

To test this hypothesis, :
  • participants were asked to answer survey questions about how anxious maths problems made them feel, ... two sample (groups) of 14 people each — one group of high math anxiety, and one group of  low anxiety towards mathematics. 
  • (the two groups) were asked a series of word and number puzzles while their brains were scanned with an MRI. 
  • (With) easier maths  questions, there was no difference between the two groups.   For the harder questions, though, the higher mathematical anxiety “significantly” underperformed low math anxiety (group),
Read the rest of this fascinating paper here

Graphic International Herald Tribune

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