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The Math's Physicology

The following is an extract of an article written by  Sean Cavanagh  in Education Week. It has to be with the anxiety all students are confronted while they try to learn Mathematics. The results of such research  were  presented in the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science  by Mark H. Ashcraft, a professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Nevada. Here the the most important topics of interest not only for teachers but parents as well:
A number of researchers, including Mr. Ashcraft, say there is evidence that anxiety disrupts student performance in math by wreaking havoc with “working memory.” Such capacity is a type of short-term memory individuals use to retain a limited amount of information while working on a task—and block out distractions and irrelevant information. Anxiety can sap students’ working memory during tests, but in other problem-solving situations, too.

Once students realize they do not grasp a math concept, the internal pressure grows.

“Math entails certain conceptual barriers that lead people to read the same passage over and over again and not understand it,” Mr. Siegler, another participant declared.

Individuals with high levels of math anxiety tend to rush through problems, making them prone to errors, the UNLV researcher has concluded. Those math-anxious students also have far more difficulty on problems that require processes such as “carrying” numbers than on questions where such steps are not necessary.

One strategy simply involves practice with math problems, which can make it easier to retrieve answers from memory. Another is to train students to become more accustomed to working under pressure by having them take timed practice tests, for example. Although there has been little definitive research on what makes math anxiety worse, some scholars have suggested that math teachers or parents can ratchet up the anxiety of students by placing unrealistically high demands on them, or by showing annoyance when concepts aren’t quickly mastered, while providing little academic support.

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