Can Good Posture Give You Better Performance in Maths?

body posture in solving maths

A scientist quoted that… “Math + Good Posture = Better Scores”. Students have faced a lot of challenge trying to improve their performance in science, most especially mathematics. But studies and carefully carried-out research have shown that one of the ways of improving mathematics performance is through a “good posture” of sitting.

Source: San Francisco State University

Students who were tested sitting upright with back and shoulders upright were found to have difficulties level in the subject reduced compared to those that bent forward or slumped-over while faced with the same test.

It was gathered that slumping over is a defensive posture that can trigger old negative memories in the body and brain. While the students without math anxiety did not report as great a benefit from better posture, they did find that doing math while slumped over was somewhat more difficult.

Findings have also shown that people can do better in any subject and improve performance when they are in due stress while sitting up straight with shoulders back.

These findings of body position can help people prepare for many different types of performance under stress, not just math tests. Athletes, musicians and public speakers can all benefit from better posture prior to and during their performance.

“It’s about using an empowered position to optimize your focus.”

That empowerment could be particularly helpful to students facing the challenge called “stereotype (discriminated or mental) threat,” who experience fear and insecurity because of a belief by others — which can become internalized — that they won’t do as well at math.

While some believe that adopting a more confident posture could help other first-generation students as well as women entering science and math, who often battle stereotype threat, others did not see as necessary.

“I always felt insecure about my math abilities even though I excelled at other subjects,” said Mason, a former victim of stereotype threat who helped design an experiment in the study. “You build a relationship with [math] so early — as early as elementary school. You can carry that negative self-talk throughout your life, impacting your perception of yourself.”

Mason said the study results demonstrate a simple way to improve many aspects of life, especially when stress is involved: “The way we carry ourselves and interact in space influences not only how others perceive us but also how we perceive ourselves.”


Do better in math: How your body posture may change stereotype threat response

This study investigates posture on mental math performance. 125 students (M = 23.5 years) participated as part of a class activity. Half the students sat in an erect position while the other half sat in a slouched position and were asked to mentally subtract 7 serially from 964 for 30 seconds.

They then reversed the positions before repeating the math subtraction task beginning at 834. They rated the math task difficulty on a scale from 0 (none) to 10 (extreme). The math test was rated significantly more difficult while sitting slouched (M = 6.2) than while sitting erect (M = 4.9) ANOVA [F (1,243) = 17.06, p < 0.001].

Participants with the highest test anxiety, math difficulty and blanking out scores (TAMDBOS) rated the math task significantly more difficult in the slouched position (M = 7.0) as compared to the erect position (M = 4.8) ANOVA [F (1, 75) = 17.85, p < 0.001].

To the participants with the lowest 30% TAMDBOS, there was no significant difference between slouched (M=4.90) and erect positions (M = 4.0). The participants with the highest TAMDBOS experienced significantly more somatic symptoms as compared with the lowest TAMDBOS. Discussed, are processes such as stereotypic threat associated with a ‘defense reaction’ by which posture can affect mental math and inhibit abstract thinking.

Moreover, clinicians who work with students who have learning difficulty may improve the outcome if they include posture changes.

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