Kids + Positive Attitudes = Better Math Scores

posted: 03/13/18
by: Amanda Mushro
Smart young girl wearing a yellow jumper and glasses stood infront of a blackboard with mathematical equations written in chalk

As a kid, math class always made me nervous and was never my strong suit. Even as an adult, I always break out my phone to figure out the tip at a restaurant. Otherwise I start to panic my math is wrong and I've tipped way too much or worse, I look like a cheapskate that doesn't tip enough. But maybe my anxiety of being bad at math has more to do with my attitude and less to do with being confused by algebra.

According to a new study, kids that have a positive attitude towards math test better in the subject. Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine recently finished a study of 240 elementary school students ranging in ages from seven to ten. During the study, researchers say they were able to identify the brain pathway that links a positive attitudes toward math to achievement in the subject.

By using MRI scans, researchers were able to map the neurological effects of positivity on each child's brain. The study says a child with a positive attitude towards math had an improved ability to answer math problems, increased their memories and enhanced their problem-solving abilities.

"Attitude is really important," said lead author Lang Chen. "Based on our data, the unique contribution of positive attitude to math achievement is as large as the contribution from IQ." So being a smarty-pants is great but can just coming to class with a great attitude will help you in math?

Researches said if students had a positive attitude about math, they tended to have more interest in math and were more likely to practice at home. However, before you let your kids toss their calculators aside, researchers were careful to note that only having a positive attitude was not enough.

"A positive attitude opens the door for children to do well but does not guarantee that they will; that depends on other factors as well," says Chen.

So what can we learn from this study? Researchers hope this new info will help not only kids that find themselves nervous about math--or in my case, adults-- and for teachers looking to encourage their students, some new inspiration.

So I'm going to give this a try. I'll try keeping a positive attitude when it comes to math as long as I don't have to figure out the tip at dinner.