A new study from the University of Chicago has just confirmed the link between math anxiety and math avoidance. Math apprehension is a very common phenomenon, but often people who dread this subject are simply avoiding it. The UChicago researchers found that math-anxious people tend to steer away from more complex math problems, even when solving those problems may provide bigger monetary rewards.

This innovative research suggests that fear may hamper people to develop their math abilities. For example, a student seeking a good grade in mathematics may waste too much time on problems that are not challenging enough. “People often say that being anxious about math is just a byproduct of being bad at it. Our research shows that isn’t true,” said Barnard College President Sian Beilock, a leading scholar of math anxiety and senior co-author of the study.

Parents and educators have to think about how they can diminish math anxiety in students that are generally fully capable of success in math and science. By understanding how math-anxious people could overcome their very detrimental tendency to avoid math, we should be able to turn the vicious cycle of math anxiety into a virtuous cycle of math success.

Picture: Arcanys Early Learning Foundation