by Rachel Taliaferro
I don't do well under pressure--particularly when faced with math. In high school, I took the SAT three times before I was able to sit through the math portion without being reduced to a tangle of nerves. At restaurants, I usually have to fake a trip to the bathroom or outside to "answer a call" in order to work out the tip and avoid the potential embarrassment of friends witnessing me scrawl messy multiplication all over the receipt.
Math anxiety isn't at all uncommon, and it's come to be a generally socially accepted impediment (it's more common to hear people talk about their troubles with math than about their troubles with reading, for example). What's interesting is that math anxiety isn't always connected to a lack of ability or knowledge--adults and children with math anxiety aren't necessarily bad at math. So what's behind it?
Oxford University Press sponsors PsychTalk Webinars, in which professors and professionals in psychology and education tackle different phenomena. Dr. Sian L. Beilock, a psychology professor at Michigan State University, recently hosted a webinar exploring the psychology behind the performance breakdown caused by math anxiety, high-pressure test situations, and pressure resulting from social and cultural phenomena like stereotype threat. If you or your child or student experiences math anxiety or any other form of pressure-induced anxiety, Beilock's webinar will provide insight into why the problem exists and some tips on how to overcome it.