Math-anxious brains tackle simple problems differently | Science News

SUPPORT SCIENCE NEWS

Science News is a nonprofit.

Help us keep you informed.


News in Brief

Math-anxious brains tackle simple problems differently

Research suggests math-savvy people may be better at automating arithmetic

By
5:33pm, March 27, 2017
man chalkboard

NUMBER NERVOUSNESS People anxious about doing math use certain brain networks differently when doing arithmetic, which suggests they might use different problem-solving strategies than people who aren’t anxious about math.

SAN FRANCISCO — When faced with simple math problems, people who get jittery about the subject may rely more heavily on certain brain circuitry than math-savvy people do. The different mental approach could help explain why people with math anxiety struggle on more complicated problems, researchers reported March 25 at the Cognitive Neuroscience Society’s annual meeting.

While in fMRI machines, adults with and without math anxiety evaluated whether simple arithmetic problems, such as 9+2=11, were correct or incorrect. Both groups had similar response times and accuracy on the problems, but brain scans turned up differences.

Specifically, in people who weren’t anxious about math, lower activation of the frontoparietal attention network was linked to better performance. That brain network is involved in working memory and problem solving.  Math-anxious

This article is only available to Science News subscribers. Already a subscriber? Log in now. Or subscribe today for full access.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More from Science News

From the Nature Index Paid Content