Published at Thursday, May 09th 2019. by Nathalee Antoine in math worksheet.

If a brain region is working hard, there will be more brain activation. These researchers found that a part of the brain called the amygdala is more activated (working harder) in children with high math anxiety than in children with low math anxiety. Also, in children with high math anxiety, the areas of the brain that deal with working memory and mathematical processing (called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the intraparietal sulcus) are less activated (working less hard) compared with those brain areas in children who have low math anxiety [5]. The amygdala is a small almond-shaped structure in the lower middle part of the brain and it is important for experiencing and processing emotions, including fear and anxiety. The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is a larger part of the brain located at the very front of the brain, and it is involved in many complicated behaviors, such as planning and decision making. The intraparietal sulcus is a brain region near the top of the brain that is important for mathematics and paying attention. (See Figure 3 for a picture of where these brain regions are located.) So, overall, this study suggests that when children solve math problems, those children with high math anxiety activate brain regions involved in anxiety, while those children with low math anxiety activate brain regions that are involved with solving math problems.

Because math anxiety affects many people and is related to poor math skills, it is important to understand when and how math anxiety first appears, what is happening in the brain when people are feeling anxious about math, and how to best help people with math anxiety.

Where does this anxiety start? One factor may be that children haven’t developed positive associations with math before they start school, they way they do with reading. While parents read with children and help them develop reading skills, doing math for fun with parents at home is almost unheard of. When children encounter math at school, the concepts are often entirely new, and the only preparation they will have received are the messages they might have picked up from others, like the idea that math is really hard, or girls aren’t good at math.

Any adult can help develop math concepts in children, beginning at a grass roots level by practicing developmentally-appropriate, playful learning. “Mathemize” everyday experiences to ignite children’s curiosity and respond to questions with easy to relate to examples. Allow children to demonstrate competency and build confidence, by adding movement to increase engagement and a big dose of silliness to boost the fun.

Just like it’s a good idea to read to your children, it’s also a good idea for you to do math together. Of course, parents often have their own anxieties about math. As with any other kind of anxiety, it’s important to try not to pass on your fears to your children.

One of the main goals of understanding what causes math anxiety and how math anxiety affects the brain is to find ways to help people with math anxiety and ultimately to prevent it from happening. Some researchers have created tools to help people with math anxiety. These tools are called interventions. A tool or program that is given to people with the goal of helping them improve or get better at a skill. For example, researchers have made interventions based on research showing that writing down thoughts and feelings beforehand can make people feel less nervous when taking tests. Researchers thought that if children wrote down their thoughts and feelings, those feelings would not occupy working memory while the children were completing a math test. So, the researchers did an intervention where they asked children with math anxiety to write about their math-related worries. These researchers found that, when students wrote about their math-related worries, their math test scores improved. A different group of researchers showed that if college students with math anxiety did some breathing exercises to calm them down before a math test, they felt more calm and their scores on the test improved. Together, these intervention studies provide scientific evidence for ways that we can help people with math anxiety. This research is very promising because it tells us that people with math anxiety can be helped—they are not stuck with math anxiety for life.

But saying ‘I don’t know’ can actually reduce a lot of the anxiety about having the right answers.” Better yet, Dr. Pagirsky recommends saying, “Let’s look it up together and find out.” That way you’re modeling the best way to respond when you don’t know something — which is one of the most important lessons there is.

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