## Simple arithmetic: not so simple for highly math anxious individuals

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**Title:**

• Simple arithmetic: not so simple for highly math anxious individuals

**Authors:**

• Hyesang Chang, Lisa Sprute, Erin A Maloney, Sian L Beilock, Marc G Berman (2017)

**Journal and DOI:**

• Affective Neuroscience, 12(12), 1940–1949. https://doi.org/10.1093/scan/nsx121

**What do we know?** We know that math anxiety (feeling nervous or apprehensive about math) is associated with poor performance on complex math problems. We also know that people tend to solve simple math problems using direct retrieval (e.g., simply remembering that 7+3=10).

**What did we ask?** Here we asked whether people who are anxious about math approach simple arithmetic using the same strategies as those who are not anxious about math.

**How did we ask it?** We asked 48 adult participants to answer simple math questions while in an fMRI scanner. We looked for differences in brain activity between high math anxious and low math anxious individuals as they answered.

**What did we find?** Even though all the participants solved the simple math questions accurately, there was a higher level of activation in the fronto-parietal attentional network for higher math anxious participants, suggesting that they had to exert more effort and relied less on direct retrieval than their lower math anxious peers.

**Why is this important?** These findings suggest that low and high math anxious adults approach even the most fundamental math problems differently. This work is important, as it demonstrates how higher math anxious adults may be relying on problem solving strategies that are especially ineffective for them.

**Brought to you by Dr. Erin Maloney’s Cognition and Emotion Lab at the University of Ottawa.’s Cognition and Emotion Lab at the University of Ottawa. **