# Brain boffins: 'Yes, math CAN make your head hurt – LITERALLY'

When someone says that math makes their head hurt, they may not be speaking metaphorically. A new study has shown that math anxiety can cause actual, physical pain. "We show that, when anticipating an upcoming math-task," the researchers explain, "the higher one's math anxiety, the more one increases activity in regions …

#### Re: Math?

Clearly the authors have already planned a follow-up study to find out if the same is true for maths. Clever these brain boffins.

#### Re: Math?

Yes, shortening mathematics to math is not only incorrect, but nonsensical.

Now excuse me, I'm off to my gyms class.

#### FFS

Its _math_ematics, not _maths_ematics.

If you want to make a proper contraction you need an apostrophe -- Math's!

#### So....

Anticipating doing something you don't like doing isn't pleasant. Not exactly brain surgery...

"The problem about maths is the numbers get in the way."

Seriously, words spoken by a pretty fearsome mathematician I know. I know what they mean too.. maths is about patterns. The numbers are simply how it's expressed.

..and whoever voted that post down had better have a PHd in the subject and be prepared to explain themselves.

Red buttons mean nothing. You know, zero. That's a number, that tends to be used when you want to express "nothing". Zilch, nada, nowt. Not a sausage.

See?

#### too lazy to read the actual paper, but...

I hope they randomized the "yellow triangle == math, blue square == words" association across their subjects, as it is common knowledge that the colour yellow, and yellow triangles in particular, mean *warning* for many people, which could skew the results if consistently used for one or the other.

#### apropros of nothing

Reminds me for some strange reason of the story of John von Neumann being at a party and being asked to solve a fairly simple mathematical puzzle. Two trains are travelling towards each other at a certain relative velocity and a fly is doing laps between the closest points of both trains, again at its own (faster) speed. The puzzle was to find out how far the fly would have flown before the trains collided. Our computer-related guy thinks for a moment and then gives the right answer, and the questioner is amazed that he got the answer so quickly and comments that most people try to work out the sum of the series (legs) of the fly's flight. Slightly embarrassed, Mr. Computer has to admit that that's how he solved it ...

#### Re: apropros of nothing

Heck, I can give you an accurate answer to that problem instantly;

"Hell if I know!"

#### Re: apropros of nothing

Does it really matter if the fly just gets squished between the trains anyway? Wouldn't it make more sense trying to work out how to stop the trains colliding?

#### Re: apropros of nothing

Assuming the fly's change of velocity was instantaneous at each reversal point then the distance it has flown before the trains collided would have been the initial distance between the trains times the ratio of the fly's speed over the trains' closure speed... no?

#### Re: apropros of nothing

*the distance it has flown before the trains collided would have been the initial distance between the trains times the ratio of the fly's speed over the trains' closure speed*

Or, put more simply: it is trivial to figure out Δt (the time that elapses before the trains collide), since the trains have constant velocity. That's also the fly's Δt, because it stops flying when the trains collide. And the fly is assumed to travel at constant speed (and velocity is constant except for a reversal of sign, which is irrelevant to the problem). So the distance is just the fly's speed times Δt. If you have the numbers it's easy to do in your head.[1]

Incidentally, the story as reported in some sources (possibly Poundstone's *Prisoner's Dilemma*) has JvN puzzled (not "embarrassed", per the OP) that anyone would bother solving the problem using any approach other than summing the series. That sounds more plausible to me; I can't see JvN being embarrassed by others' failings.

[1] If you're math-anxious, don't think about this. **Don't think about it!**

#### What makes my head hurt...

...is the use of (tautology alert) mindless Americanisms on a BRITISH news site.

#### Pavlov's Dog?

I am sorry but I give the study a big thumbs down, in my opinion the results confirm nothing beyond the existence of people who were so damaged by their education that they suffer psychosomatic pain as a result.

#### Perhaps these people have English anxiety

...or are merely buzzword-deficient. 'The Short Math Anxiety Rating-Scale (SMARS)?" Couldn't they have called it the Short Math Anxiety Rating-Tabulation (SMART)?

BTW, since this was an American study, the use of 'math' would be how they termed the activity. Do we really need to translate from English to English for Brits?

#### Re: Perhaps these people have English anxiety

It's called 'Math' because those Americans can't get past solving the first problem...

whereas us Brits have enough brains to get through multiple 'maths' questions

#### Re: Perhaps these people have English anxiety

English never needs to be qualified with 'for Brits' since we invented it. Your sentence should actually read:

"Do we really need to translate from English for Americans to English?"

#### They needed to research this?

So that explains why my mathematical pickup lines have not been working all these years!

Guess its back to 'Are those real?' ;)

#### Re: They needed to research this?

I dreamed the other night that I met a mathematician with enormous boobs.

When I asked her what cup size she was, she replied 'j'.

I asked 'Are they real?'

'No,' she said, 'They're imaginary!'

#### Statistics

I was going to do a study like this some years ago, but the thought of crunching all those data made my... oh, wait.