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Brain Study Links Emotional Self-Regulation and Math Performance

Brain Study Points to Potential Treatments for Math Anxiety (Education Week):

  • “The study, published this morning in the journal Cerebral Cortex, is a continuation of work on highly math-anxious people being conducted by Sian L. Beilock, associate psychology professor at the University of Chicago, and doctoral candidate Ian M. Lyons. In prior research, Beilock has found that just the thought of doing math problems can trigger stress responses in people with math anxiety, and adult teachers can pass their trepidation about math on to their students.”
  • “Students who were anxious about math but performed well anyway showed high activity in the frontal and parietal regions of the brain when they learned a math problem was coming up; these are not the areas of the brain associated with calculating numbers, but those associated with cognitive control, focus, and regulating negative emotions. Students who activated these parts of the brain before attempting the math problem got 83 percent of the problems correct, nearly the same as the 88 percent accuracy of students with low math anxiety. By contrast, highly anxious students whose brains did not register activity in those regions got only 68 percent of the math questions correct.”
  • “This study really suggests we can devise interventions that can help students reappraise the situation and control emotions before they even get into a task,” Beilock said. “It shows how some math anxious people are able to engage brain power to succeed.”

To read study: Click Here (opens PDF).

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