According to a study conducted by researchers at Ohio State University, whose findings are published in the online version of the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, genetic factors explain about 40 percent of the individual differences in math anxiety. The rest is chocked up to experiences at school, home and around friends.
The study, which examined how 216 identical twins and 298 same-sex fraternal twins differ on measures of math anxiety, provides a new view on why some children—and adults—may develop a real fear of math that makes it more difficult for them to solve math problems and succeed in school.
Science Daily reports that math anxiety taps into genetic predispositions in two ways: "People's cognitive performance on math and their tendency toward anxiety," said Zhe Wang, lead author of the study and postdoctoral researcher in psychology at Ohio State University.
Stephen Petrill, professor of psychology at Ohio State, and the principal investigator of the study, says, "Genetic factors may exacerbate or reduce the risk of doing poorly at math. If you have these genetic risk factors for math anxiety and then you have negative experiences in math classes, it may make learning that much harder."
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Image of child doing geometry courtesy of Shutterstock.