I started a new book yesterday: How We Learn, by Benedict Carey. As I was reading the introduction, I found out something that was immediately worth the price of the book. I could have stopped reading at that point and been happy—actually, I was overjoyed!
I found out that math fear is a real thing. I can add and multiply (my mom taught me the multiplication tables with flash cards while I was in elementary school), but I am terrible at subtraction, fractions, geometry, algebra, and long division. The only number I have memorized is 43,560*, and I am good enough at real-estate math to pass the Texas agent and broker exams on the first tries—but that's it!
When confronted with a math problem, I freeze up. I have to draw pictures and make notes and stick figures to work through it. I've always been ashamed of my poor math skills and have recently been trying to improve them. Oddly enough, I love doing research and working with Excel spreadsheets, but I suspect it's because I enjoy finding patterns, and I can let Excel do the calculations for me.
Now to my relief, I have discovered I am not a dummy, although I'm sure I could benefit from reading the entire series of Math for Dummies books.
I could kiss the researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine who studied math anxiety with fMRI scans that showed that the brains of kids who experience it have biological differences from those who don't. Kids with math anxiety are overcome with feelings of fear when given math problems, and their emotions override their information-processing centers in the brain.
Further studies at the University of Chicago show that math anxiety is experienced similarly to actual pain. I am here to tell you it certainly evokes feelings of shame!
I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the book. Who knows what else I will find out? Maybe there's a good reason why I can't remember what happened in previous seasons of my favorite TV series!
*It's the number of square feet in an acre