Some kids are just naturally good at math while some aren’t. Hasn’t that always been the case? According to a new study published in the journal Psychological Science, it’s not as simple as that. Apparently, kids who have lower scores in math show signs of an altered brain function from anxiety. When feelings of fear and panic surface, the part of the brain that handles math slows down.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, researchers scanned nearly 50 students with both low and high math anxiety. They also used a modified version of a standardized questionnaire for adults to test for math anxiety.

Results showed that those who had higher math anxiety were slower and less accurate at solving math problems than those with lower math anxiety. Researchers believe that the feelings of fear block the students’ ability to use logic to solve math questions. What takes its place is instinct—our natural reaction to perceived threats.

So if your kids aren’t as good at math as some of their classmates, perhaps it is because they have high math anxiety. Instead of constantly putting them under pressure, why not help them conquer their fear of numbers? Once the fear is out of the way, they’ll be able to focus on understanding their lessons better.

(Photo by tomono via Flickr Creative Commons)

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