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The Effect of Math Anxiety on Cardiovascular Homeostasis

Cheryl Callahan
1991 Woodrow Wilson Biology Institute


Objective:

Students will be able to :
  1. Propose a hypothesis on the effects of stress on the heart.
  2. Collect data on pulse rate and organize in tabular form.
  3. Create a graph to show a heart under stress and a heart at rest.
  4. Evaluate data and propose an explanation of the causes.
  5. Understand their personal level of stress and its effect on performance.

Background:

Normally the heart is under homeostatic control, but can be influenced by psychological and environmental stimuli. The heart is controlled by the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system is also involved in the reaction to stress, and stressful situations will cause the secretion of hormones (epinephrine and norepinepherine) which cause an increase in heart rate. A type of stress experienced by students is commonly called math/test anxiety. Symptoms include difficulty in timed tests, fear of math/tests, and poor performance. Because of the relationship between heart rate and stress one can test a student's physiological reaction to environmental stimuli.

Materials:

  • Wristwatch style pulse monitor (1 per group)
  • Arithmetic test of 20-50 problems appropriate to level
  • Clock or watch with sweep second hand

Methods:

  1. Students will be instructed on the use of the pulse monitor.
  2. Student pairs will be divided into subjects and experimentors. These designations will be switched in order to repeat the experment for each student.
  3. Experimentor will measure and record subject's resting pulse rate for 2:00 minutes at 5 second intervals.
  4. Subjects will then be given the arithmetic test with 2:00 minutes to complete the test.
  5. During the test, experimentors will observe and record pulse rate at 5 second intervals.
  6. Warnings will be given at 1:00 minute, 40 sec., 30 sec., 20 sec., 15 sec., 10 sec., 5 sec., 4, 3, 2, and 1 seconds remaining.
  7. Students will graph each subjects data with control and experimental data on the same line graph.
  8. Appropriate statistical tests will be applied to determine the significance of individual and group data.

Analysis:

  1. Compare the results of your study with the results of your classmates and account for differences.
  2. Evaluate your performance in % correct. Do you feel that there is a correlation between your stress level and your performance?
  3. What are some possible ways to reduce test anxiety?
  4. What might be the biological basis for your response to the environmental stimulus?
  5. How might the reaction you observed be adaptive?
  6. Could the reaction you observed be maladaptive when translated into today's society.
  7. Propose another investigation to further the findings of this investigation.

Data Tables

Control - Resting

# SecPulse
Rate
# SecPulse
Rate
5
65
10
70
15
75
20
80
25
85
30
90
35
95
40
100
45
105
50
110
55
115
60
120



With Timed Test

# SecPulse
Rate
# SecPulse
Rate
5
65
10
70
15
75
20
80
25
85
30
90
35
95
40
100
45
105
50
110
55
115
60
120


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