Math Geniuses Don’t Exist.
October 15, 2019
For many students, math (or another “math-heavy field” like computer science, physics, accounting, economics etc.) can be the most intimidating subject in school.
For many students, math (or another “math-heavy field” like computer science, physics, accounting, economics etc.) can be the most intimidating subject in school. Statements like “I’m not some math genius” or “I can’t possibly take that class” can be heard echoing down high school and college hallways alike, when math class is mentioned.
“I can’t possibly take that class”
Parents and students typically attribute these mathematical challenges to “not being a math person” or “the class being just too hard”. After tutoring countless students in math, physics, economics, statistics and other quantitative classes that elicit stress in those with “numerical anxiety”, at GRANITE we think something different is going on.
Math is different from history or english largely in the way it is expressed.
Math is different from history or english largely in the way it is expressed. English and history use words. While words can be long and complicated, ultimately they are still words. Words are comfortable; we use them to text our friends, read our favorite blogs, and follow the subtitles in foreign films. Accordingly, when an english or history teacher gives us a uniquely hard article, primary source, or novel, we can feel reassured that at the end of the day this challenging academic obstacle is still made up of words. Math by contrast is not built on words but on “notation”: symbols used to count, categorize, and estimate.
Words are comfortable; we use them to text our friends, read our favorite blogs, and follow the subtitles in foreign films.
It is not uncommon for a student to come across a math problem and leave the question blank, in spite of having all the skills needed. When reviewing the problem, the student will often say “I didn’t know that symbol, so I panicked and just skipped it”. This, of course, is not the fault of the student at all. Our mainstream cultural dialogue and academic systems consistently reinforce the idea that math is something extremely difficult reserved for “math geniuses”, and the resulting panic students feel is just a self fulfilling prophecy.
…consistently reinforce the idea that math is something extremely difficult rese
What test takers can learn from athletes about a 24% GPA boost and 13% increase in confidence
November 21, 2018
“the GPA of [the] “brain training group” had increased by 24%… [and] a 13% increase in self reported confidence”
Still, one brain workout has been largely ignored until recently…
Thousands of cutting edge scientific studies are finding the value of mindfulness-based brain training exercises for academic achievement. Just as an athlete works on cardio to improve endurance, a student should use a mindfulness-based practice to build up attention span. When an athlete lifts weights to get stronger, a student might use mindfulness to strengthen memory. The parallels between physical fitness and brain fitness are endless.
Mindfulness powered brain training literally increases the density of “grey matter” in our brain.
If your team’s coach thought you needed to strengthen your biceps, you would do concentration curls. On the flip side, if you had a hard time focusing on tests, your tutor should recommend the appropriate brain training exercises.
So what is an easy way to get started with some “brain pull-ups”? Below is an easy ten step guide to begin practicing. If you have specific questions set up a meeting with a Granite Prep educator to discuss your goals and needs.
Find a comfortable seat and sit upright
Close your eyes
Take a couple deep breaths
Notice any sounds or scents in the room
Notice the ground beneath your feet
Notice what your breath is doing (don’t change it – just notice)
Begin counting your breath 1 on the in breath 2 on the out breath (again we aren’t trying to control or influence our breath just gently count)
Once you reach a count of 6 start back at 1
If you notice your mind wanders just bring it back to whatever number you last remember being on. No need to feel frustrated with yourself, simply bring your attention back to your breath; you are building the “focus muscle” of your brain.
Every time you get distracted and focus back on your breath you have done a “brain pull-up”
After 10 mins is complete open your eyes and go about your day!
Source: “Students with Test Anxiety Score 8-Points Higher (out of 100) After 3 Week Mindfulness Course”
…after the training, however, the GPA of the “brain training group” had increased by 24% for the semester whereas the “no brain training group” didn’t see any change in GPA.
GPAs of the students were recorded and then compared to GPAs at ten weeks later. Before the training, the two groups had very similar GPA’s, after the training, however, the GPA of the “brain training group” had increased by 24% for the semester whereas the “no brain training group” didn’t see any change in GPA. The students who received the mindfulness training also saw an increase in academic confidence. These students enjoyed a 13% increase in self reported confidence. Once again, the group who did not receive any brain training did not see any change in confidence. The results from the study are shown in the table below (to read the full study click here).
Just like with any exercise, you won’t start noticing the results right away. Just like it takes time to build muscle, it takes time to build our brain.
At Granite Prep we feel it is critical to maintain the highest integrity with our statistics, so we publish t-statistics and confidence intervals for all our figures. The t-statistic for the difference in academic achievement between our groups’ pretreatment was 0.846 (not statistically significant ). This is a good indication that the groups were infact randomly assigned. The pretreatment difference in confidence was 0.858 (not statistically significant), again speaking to the randomly assigned nature of the groups. The t-statistic of the difference between treatment and control groups after the ten weeks was: 3.62 (p<0.001) and 4.86 (p<0.001) for GPA and confidence respectively.
If you don’t know what these numbers mean, but you are interested check out this great course on research statistics!
Grantly Neely is a certified KORU mindfulness teacher, founder of Granite Test Prep and Nashville native. For more about Grantly and his amazing team of educators CLICK HERE
Franco C., Mañas I., Cangas A.J., Gallego J. (2010) The Applications of Mindfulness with Students of Secondary School: Results on the Academic Performance, Self-concept and Anxiety. In: Lytras M.D., Ordonez De Pablos P., Ziderman A., Roulstone A., Maurer H., Imber J.B. (eds) Knowledge Management, Information Systems, E-Learning, and Sustainability Research. WSKS 2010. Communications in Computer and Information Science, vol 111. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg
Yogurt to Reduce Stress
October 21, 2018
When preparing for the SAT, ACT, or any other exam, considering the effect of nutrition on academic performance is critical.
Here at Granite Prep we are fascinated by what makes students into great test takers. When preparing for the SAT, ACT, or any other exam, considering the effect of nutrition on academic performance is critical. The connection between nutrition and academic performance is not a new one; however, thanks to cutting edge research the importance of brain food for students is more clear than ever before! Probiotics have recently become the focus of countless innovative research studies, as more scientists are asking: how does nutrition affect learning?
Probiotics and Anxiety:
A team of neuroscientists led by John F. Cryan at The College University of Cork in Ireland made breakthrough discoveries on the impacts of probiotics and mood. Cryan compared the performance of mice who received a diet rich in Lactobacillus to a group of mice who did not receive any probiotics. The mice were placed in mazes and their behavior and stress hormones were monitored. The mice who had a diet rich in probiotics were notably more curious, less anxious, and showed lower levels of the stress hormone corticosterone. Furthermore, the mice had a healthier distribution of the neurotransmitter “GABA” (the same neurotransmitter targeted by most fast-acting anti-anxiety medication). In Cryan’s own words: “These mice were more chilled out.“
The mice who had a diet rich in probiotics were notably more curious, less anxious, and showed lower levels of the stress hormone corticosterone.
Probiotics and Endurance:
“The mice with a probiotic rich diet simply wouldn’t give up.”
Upset Stomach and Exams:
One day before the students’ big exam, the “probiotic group” had notably less stress hormones (cortisol) in their system than the “no-probiotic group”.
Dustin tells us that some of his favorite ways to enjoy his farm’s amazing probiotic rich creation include: “with honey and granola for breakfast” or “in a smoothie”.
Check out the research and data behind our blog posts!
Ingestion of Lactobacillus strain regulates emotional behavior and central GABA receptor expression in a mouse via the vagus nerve
Javier A. Bravo, Paul Forsythe, Marianne V. Chew, Emily Escaravage, Hélène M. Savignac, Timothy G. Dinan, John Bienenstock, John F. Cryan
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Aug 2011, 201102999; DOI:10.1073/pnas.1102999108
Kato-Kataoka A. Fermented milk containing Lactobacillus casei strain Shirota preserves the diversity of the gut microbiota and relieves abdominal dysfunction in healthy medical students exposed to academic stress. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 2016;82:3649–3658.
Students with Test Anxiety Score 8-Points Higher (out of 100) After 3 Week Mindfulness Course
September 21, 2018
Don’t let stress slow you down
Test taking anxiety can be unpleasant, but it can also hinder test performance. The authors at PSYCOM explain that: “your body releases adrenaline, and the energy used to do good thinking gets diverted into being on high alert. Our brains prepare for the worst, and it becomes all too difficult to imagine doing well and to answer questions.”
What is Mindfulness?
The reality is that being “in the zone” (calm and collected) isn’t just a gift; its something that can be trained and nurtured.
“In other words, doing mindfulness between the midterm and the final gave students a full letter-grade boost!”
“BOTH mindfulness and CBT had a SIGNIFICANT impact on reducing test taking anxiety for the students.”
Test Taking Anxiety Reduction Techniques vs Exam Scores
How do I learn Mindfulness:
“Enjoying the benefits of mindfulness isn’t difficult, nor is it particularly time consuming.”
- Find a comfortable seat and sit upright
- Close your eyes
- Take a couple deep breaths
- Notice any sounds or scents in the room
- Notice the ground beneath your feet
- Notice what your breath is doing (don’t change it – just notice)
- Begin counting your breath 1 on the in breath 2 on the out breath (again we aren’t trying to control or influence our breath just gently count)
- Once you reach a count of 6 start back at 1
- If you notice your mind wanders just bring it back to whatever number you last remember being on. No need to feel frustrated with yourself, simply bring your attention back to your breath; you are building the “focus muscle” of your brain. Every time you get distracted and focus back on your breath you have done a “brain pull-up”
- After 10 mins is complete open your eyes and go about your day!
“Every time you get distracted and focus back on your breath you have done a ‘brain pull-up'”
If you think you could benefit from mindfulness and want to learn different techniques we love to recommend HEADSPACE (linked below). Headspace founder Andy is a brilliant teacher and has been working in the field of mindfulness for nearly his entire life.