Episode #89

Your Posture May Change Your Math Skills

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

WNYC's Manoush Zomorodi playing the video game Scoops! at NYU Poly Game Innovation Lab in Brooklyn (Alex Goldmark)

Fear of math is real.

In fact, psychologists now use the term “math anxiety” to describe the panic many people — particularly girls and women — have about doing math. On this week’s New Tech City, host Manoush Zomorodi plays a new video game that is being developed to alleviate math anxiety by getting physical in front of a screen. Players move into so-called 'power poses.'

It's all based on the incredibly popular TED talk below. The game Scoops! from NYU-Poly's Game Innovation Lab turns fractions into fun and attempts to put research about the mind-body connection to use all by making kids stand strong. Can it heal Manoush’s own math PTSD?  



    Music Playlist
  1. Times Square
    Artist: Justin Asher
  2. Open Slowly
    Artist: Justin Asher
  3. I Still Can’t Believe
    Artist: Kenneth J Brahmstedt
  4. Floaty K
    Artist: Kenneth J Brahmstedt, BMI
  5. Properly Smashed Alt 1
    Artist: Jack Ventimiglia
  6. Private Detective
    Artist: Cullen Fitzpatrick, ASCAP


Mark Ashcraft and Katherine Isbister

Comments [4]

I was listening to this with my kids and my 10 year old son, who happens to be very good at math, pointed out that he stands tall a lot in class. Purely anecdotal, I realize.

Jun. 16 2014 12:05 PM

What I find strange is that no "pose" has inherent meaning of itself, and if there were not some kind of human-created cliche associated with a certain pose ("when you extend your limbs you are powerful, when you sit bend over you are weak" etc) then you could be extended and not feel powerful or bent over and not feel weak. Certain poses, when you do them, have no power over your math abilities, nor do NOT doing those poses make you weak or weaker in your math abilities.
If you tried to teach a person who has lived in a very primitive tribe who knows nothing about pop psychology , about math, s/he would have his/her own ability to learn the concepts. If she does not know that slouching while working on math problems is "causing poor performance" then s/he is not going to act according to that expectation.

It can be worse to find these types of solutions. Then they can be like an artificial means of "doing better" in anything.

Jun. 11 2014 01:04 PM
Amy from Cambridge, MA

Marcos Hardy:

Well, I almost never respond to comments like this, but this one really makes me sad: here's a group of wonderful scientists (Katherine Isbister and her team) who are using their knowledge, expertise, and technology to HELP kids They're also using scientific findings that have been published in esteemed peer-reviewed journals to guide the development of their game, which they are then excruciatingly carefully testing in vast field experiments, which have been reviewed by committees at their universities and elsewhere. In short: they are doing science the way it should be done by all scientists, and they are doing it for positive social impact. Yep, I can see how you'd be moved to complain about that.

By the way, a snake oil salesman "is someone who knowingly sells fraudulent goods." Have you listened to the talk? Did you notice that I'm presenting findings from experiments published in peer-reviewed journals? Doesn't seem to fit the "fraudulent goods" definition.

Truly discouraged and saddened by your cynicism. I hope you do something nice for someone today.

Amy Cuddy

Jun. 11 2014 11:52 AM
Marcos Hardy from New York

What Cuddy does in this talk is not different from what the so-called "motivational speakers" have been doing since... forever. Snake oil sellers have been adopting these poses to sell their valueless wares without the benefit of knowing their testosterone and cortisol levels. So, what's new? Cuddy just sold her snake oil to a large audience. Kudos to Cuddy's levels of testosterone and cortisol! As they say, one born every minute.

Jun. 11 2014 08:40 AM

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