Washington, Sep 19 : Math jitters grip bright students even as first or second graders and haunts them lifelong, says a study.
Beilock, professor in psychology at the University of Chicago and her
colleagues, found most surprisingly that math anxiety harmed the
highest-achieving students, who typically have the most working memory.
can think of working memory as a kind of 'mental scratchpad' that
allows us to 'work' with whatever information is temporarily flowing
through consciousness," said Beilock, who co-authored the study with
Chicago doctoral candidate Gerardo Ramirez and others.
especially important when we have to do a math problem and juggle
numbers in our head. Working memory is one of the major building blocks
of IQ," he added, the Journal of Cognition and Development reported.
team showed that a high degree of math anxiety undermined performance
of otherwise successful students, placing them almost half a school year
behind their less anxious peers, according to a Chicago statement.
talented students with lower working memory were not impacted by
anxiety, because they developed simpler ways of dealing with mathematics
problems, such as counting on their fingers.
these lower-performing students didn't use working memory much to solve
math problems, their performance didn't suffer when worried.
tested 88 first-graders and 66 second-graders from a large urban school
system, to measure their academic abilities, their working memory and
their fear of mathematics.
They were asked, on a sliding scale,
how nervous they felt to go to the front of the room and work on a
mathematics problem on the board.
The study found that among the highest-achieving students, about half had medium to high math anxiety.
Math anxiety was also common among low-achieving students, but it did not impact their performance.