Ways to ease math anxiety studied

Oct. 20, 2011 at 8:29 PM
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CHICAGO, Oct. 20 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers say a brain study has revealed how successful students overcome math anxiety by controlling their fears.

Researchers at the University of Chicago say they found that for the highly math-anxious there is a strong link between math success and activity in areas of the brain involved in controlling attention and regulating negative emotional reactions.

Teachers as well as students may be able to use the findings to improve performance in mathematics, psychology Professor Sian Beilock said in a university release Thursday.

"Classroom practices that help students focus their attention and engage in the math task at hand may help eliminate the poor performance brought on by math anxiety," she said.

For math-anxious individuals to succeed, they need to focus on controlling their emotions, she said.

"Essentially, overcoming math anxiety appears to be less about what you know and more about convincing yourself to just buckle down and get to it," Beilock said.

"When you let your brain do its job, it usually will," co-researcher Ian Lyons said. "If doing math makes you anxious, then your first task is to calm yourself down."

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