Can We Help Students With Math Anxiety?

A recent study from the Stanford University School of Medicine looked at the brain activity of young children with math anxiety. The study found that children in second- and third- grade who felt uncomfortable and anxious about doing math had higher levels of activity in the brain areas associated with fear (the amygdala as well as the memory-forming hippocampus brain structure) and lower activity levels in the brain areas associated with problem-solving, working memory, and numerical reasoning.

Participants also showed differing levels of performance. Children who had high math anxiety levels solved problems less accurately and were also slower to solve math problems compared to children who had low math anxiety levels.

It turns out that math anxiety is “neurobiologically similar to other kinds of anxiety or phobias.” More research should be done to analyze how treatments of other common phobias could potentially translate to helping young students overcome their math phobia.

Vinod Menon, PhD, led the Stanford research study (Photo Credit: http://med.stanford.edu/ism/2012/march/math.html)

This also raises questions around the types of edtech tools and services available that could potentially help boost students’ confidence in math early on. Comment below if you know of any edtech math tools for young students that may help build confidence and skills in math for elementary students – we want to hear what you think!