Turn Math Anxiety Into Awe Improving Your Health for Pi Day

Last updated on March 9th, 2024

Every year on March 14th we celebrate Pi Day. This is because the first few digits of Pi are 3.14. This day is also known as the International Day of Mathematics. But, it is rather tragic that we use the American date format for an International Day. Most of the world writes in the day/month/year format. Though, I suppose this is the one where we can write the date as 3/14.

This is one of the most important days of the year for people who love mathematics. We can unabashedly talk about and share our favorite stories with the world. It is a real celebration and there are sure to be many great blogs and videos about it.

This day is for everyone and not just people like me. To tell you the truth, I didn’t always love math. Math anxiety was a major part of my life for much of my childhood. Yet, when I finally saw something more in it than fear a lot changed for me. You can also experience this transformation. Without needing more skill or knowledge in mathematics.

Today, I’m going to talk to you about awe and its health benefits.

You Don’t Have To Be Good at Math To Like It

Do you enjoy music? I bet you like something and even have a favorite song. You don’t need to play an instrument. You still enjoy it even though you cannot compose a symphony. It isn’t knowledge here that guides you. We paint meaning onto songs with the emotions they evoke. We can appreciate math in the same way.

Awe is a unique emotion described as “fear mixed with admiration”. This is what the astronauts felt staring at the earth as a blue marble from space. Scary for sure but awe-inducing seeing the earth in its entirety for the first time. That is what awe does. It shakes us from our everyday experiences of the world. By showing us something vast, larger than life, that changes our view of ourselves. Often forcing us to integrate new knowledge altering our beliefs. It is a great catalyst for personal growth.

Embrace your fear of mathematics. Let it give you a sense of wonder. Math is a field that is so large that not even the greatest mathematicians know everything. For every math fact we know, there are an infinite amount of things that we don’t. There are things that we cannot prove.

The Health Benefits of Awe

There are about five benefits of awe validated over the past twenty years.

  1. Studies have shown an impact on physiological health as well as mental health. One intriguing finding is that awe reduces negative chatter and rumination. Thus, it could have therapeutic benefits to help people with anxiety and depression.
  2. Awe reduces a focus on the self. It lessens the impact of our ego on our decision-making. Making us more open to helping others.
  3. It encourages pro-social behaviors. Studies show inducing awe in subjects increases their willingness to volunteer for charity. They are also more generous in sharing resources.
  4. Awe provides purpose and meaning to our lives. Meaning is also significant in promoting our well-being.
  5. Lastly, it provides a feeling of connection with others. Awe makes us feel small but it also helps us understand our place in the world. We can better see others and their roles in our lives.

The most well-known and prolific researcher in this area is Dacher Keltner. He conducts research at UC Berkeley. In 2003, Keltner published a book on this subject. He is the Co-Director of the Greater Good Science Center also at Berkeley.

Some Great Videos to Ponder Mathematical Awe

This year the theme of International Mathematics Day is play. Games are a great way to get into mathematics. You can learn strategies that will help you win simple games like Nim. Wow and amaze your friends. The 24-Hour Maths Game Show is a good place to start. You can view individual segments by clicking on the titles.

Here are two videos to start your journey.

Penny Ante


Penny Ante is a great game to play with friends. One player chooses a sequence of three coin flips. Stating the order of heads and tails. There are eight choices for this. The second player then chooses their own sequence in the same way. Each player flips a coin three times until they get their chosen sequence. Whoever gets it first wins. Make some bets and amaze people when you win no matter what they pick. Here is a written explanation.

The Game of Nim


Nim is one of my favorite games. It has a simple premise. There are several piles of objects. Piles of stones for example. Two players take turns removing any number of objects from a pile. The goal is to force the other player to take the last object. Turns out, you can play perfectly and win every time. There are many variations of this game with their own strategies.

Here are ten of my favorite Numberphile videos if you want more.

One of the most awe-inducing moments of my life occurred in 1994. It happened at 4:30 am in the morning. This was the Northridge earthquake that had a magnitude of 6.7. It was so scary and I remember that the initial shaking lifted me into the air. I made it outside. My father was furious that I wasn’t wearing shoes. I had walked over broken glass to get outside.

I remember staring up at the night sky from our driveway. All the lights in Los Angeles blacked out. With no light pollution, you could see all the stars in the sky. You could see the vastness of all those lights blinking at me. At that moment, everyone in the city was having a similar experience. United in our disparate pockets of the city.

Fear is not our enemy. It tells us about threats. Yet, it can lead us to moments where we can think about our lives. Learn about ourselves and make new choices. So, my hope is for you today to watch at least one video about mathematics and see how you feel. Give it a chance to change you.

Continue Reading

  1. It's National Mathematics Day in India
  2. Pride Cross Stitch Patterns Celebrating the Beauty of Math
  3. Join Me in Watching the 24 Hour Maths Stream About Math Games

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