Many people given a problem like the following experience anxiety to the point of not being able to attempt solving the problem:

Given 17 animals and 4 pens, how can you put animals in each pen so that there is an odd number in each one?

Math anxiety inhibits some individuals from even attempting to split up a bill at a restaurant, let alone attempt to perform the type of creatively systematic thinking that it takes to solve the above agricultural dilemma. However, a recent research study questions whether this anxiety and difficulty solving problems like this may be due to an over-dependence on mental thinking processes and a devaluing of hands-on problem-solving methods.

Two psychologists from Kingston University in London, Gaelle Vallee-Tourangeau and Frederic Vallee-Tourangeau, asked 50 participants to solve the above problem. Half were given physical models and the other half were given electronic tablets. The Physical model group was more likely to solve the problem, which involves creating an overlapping pen structure. In Professor Gaëlle Vallée-Tourangeau’s words: “When you write or draw, the action itself makes you think differently. In cognitive psychology [we] are trained to see the mind as a computer, but we’ve found that people don’t think that way in the real world. If you give them something to interact with they think in a different way.”

Other research conducted along these same lines has begun to indicate that individuals who experience math anxiety, a feeling of tension, apprehension, or fear that interferes with math performance, when using their hands and models to solve math problems, do not experience the same discomfort as when using paper and pen solving methods.

These studies don’t merely indicate that we need to use models to solve math problems, but that we need to rethink the way we think about thinking. Problem solving is much more likely to be a dynamic experience between an individual or group and the environment which they are contextually located. Considering, and interacting with that environment is likely to open up much more efficient, creative and meaningful solutions to problems which might not even be possible to solve individually, or by more conventional ways.

SOURCE: Medical Research News


email-photoNode Smith, associate editor for NDNR, is a fifth year naturopathic medical student at NUNM, where he has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine amongst the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend campout where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Three years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision. 

 

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