Neuroscience: Neural Correlates of Math Anxiety

Since posting my previous piece (When Learning Hurts – Toxic Learning) earlier this week, another blog focused on medical neuroscience posted a great overview of math anxiety called “Brain Markers of Math Anxiety“. The post refers to a study “The Neurodevelopmental Basis of Math Anxiety” that has identified the neural correlates of math anxiety for the first time, and with findings that have significant implications for its early identification and treatment.

Bottom lines:

1) Math anxiety contributes to poor math performance by reducing the  “working memory, attention, and cognitive-control processes engaged during math problem solving”.

2) “The study underscores the importance of assessment and treatment of math anxiety in children.  Reduction in math anxiety may be a key component in improving math skills and in the success of remedial math interventions.”

Math anxiety is the just tip of the iceberg. The effects of anxiety on other learning challenges are harder to measure but arguably just as devastating and affecting and even greater number of students.  When working out math problems students have time to think about what they are doing. In the case of reading, the speed of processing required to create the simulated language stream is too fast for conscious thought. Anxiety/shame interruptions to working memory and attention during learning to read are far more learning disabling.

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