Is mathematics good for the brain?

In this brief guide we are going to answer the question ‘’Is mathematics good for the brain?’’ 

We will explain the special relationship of mathematics with the human brain, we will introduce you to the brain region where mathematics happens and the benefits that mathematics brings to the brain and mind.

Is mathematics good for the brain?

Yes, math is good for the brain. Create and reinforce new connections to improve memory, increase creativity, and strengthen logical thinking.

Mathematics is a universal language and apparently basic mathematical thinking is not exclusive to our species, since experiments carried out on animals allow us to think about a basic mathematical ability both in humans and in other species.

It has been observed that both in children, in preverbal stages, and in animals there is the ability to appreciate quantities, such as the number of elements in a group, without the need to count them verbally.

Both the mental representation of a quantity, as well as the procedures to code, compare and perform procedures, and the brain regions recruited and active in these processes are common for both humans and animals.

What part of the brain is activated when we learn math?

Knowing which part of our brain is activated when we practice math skills has been the subject of discussion among some scientists for several decades. On the one hand, there were those who bet that it’s an activity closely related to linguistic comprehension, and on the other those who interpreted that it’s an independent capacity and more related to the processing of space, time, and numbers.

In a work published in the journal PNAS, Marie Amalric and Stanislas Dehaene’s team shed a little more light on the question thanks to a detailed study of the voluntary signal of 30 volunteers. 

The authors of the study recruited 15 professional mathematicians and 15 other non-mathematicians with equal academic qualifications and measured their brain signal using functional magnetic resonance imaging when they performed the same tasks.

Specifically, the researchers subjected the two groups to a series of high-level mathematical and non-mathematical statements, which should qualify as true, false or not significant.

What the study authors discovered, as described in PNAS, was that when the questions were about algebra, geometry and topology, the brains of the ‘mathematicians’ showed high activity in the bilateral intraparietal, inferior temporal and prefrontal lobe areas. , while in the ‘non-mathematicians’ they appeared at rest.

The interesting thing about the matter is that these regions are different from those related to language and semantics, which appeared active in the ‘non-mathematicians’ when they were asked about any of the subjects. Those same regions were activated when ‘non-mathematicians’ did numerical calculations, in the same way as in mathematicians.

These results, the authors state, confirm the hypothesis that complex mathematical thinking activates the same areas as the basic sense of numbering, which is distinct from the network that allows us to make sense of language. This fact may explain why having a highly developed number sense in childhood can predict people’s mathematical abilities in the future.

Math games for the brain

As we get older, we become more forgetful and have a hard time remembering the little details of everyday life. And it’s that cognitive functions tend to deteriorate with age, so some forgetfulness can be a normal part of aging.

Memory and attention allow us to fix, retain and reproduce everything that passes through our conscience and make practical use of it a posteriori, which is why they are essential to develop an independent and productive life.

In the context of a society in which the proportion of the elderly is increasing, cognitive impairment is a concern for more and more people. That is why, in recent decades, methods have been devised to strengthen the brain and prevent dementia, with mental gymnastics exercises becoming especially popular.

Scientists from different universities including Illinois, Florida and Cambridge, drew their own conclusions after studying 132 investigations on exercises to improve cognitive abilities.

These experts found that most of the studies they reviewed that claimed these types of exercises were beneficial had followed a good research approach. So they concluded that playing games related to mental skills does help maintain cognitive abilities, although it will not make you remember absolutely everything.

Exercise your mind through mental math

Mental math is not just another math tool. In reality, this area that we all took in at school and that over time we have allowed to rust, well exercised, becomes a weapon of power. It becomes a way of adapting better to the complexities of our reality to give faster and more flexible responses to the demands of the environment.

When we try to get the little ones to learn the multiplication tables or understand the meaning and usefulness of a fraction, their minds face these concepts as abstract and terribly boring learning.

At present, thanks to various materials adapted for them or to those wonderful resources that we find on the Internet, we can enhance the area of mental calculation much better.

As long as the child does not see it as “an obligation and a tedious learning”, their minds will suddenly ignite with the pleasure of the challenge and with positive reinforcement for a successful operation, followed by one more.

Mental calculation requires us to be “fast”, “precise” and “efficient” in each operation, in each addition, in each division. Little by little, the brain of the little ones will improve its plasticity thanks to these exercises and where to establish new and powerful neural connections.

We adults have no excuse either. Few things can be more entertaining as well as healthy than spending a few moments in these mental calculations while we wait for the subway or the bus, when we rest on the sofa, or when we simply want to turn off the noise of daily worries.

Taking up mental calculation exercises on a daily basis, consolidates previous knowledge in the adult and establishes new ones to achieve greater brain agility and a more powerful mind.

The mental training that calculation provides us also enhances our working memory, and with it, our cognitive processes benefit. We improve our capacity for analysis, attention and in just a few weeks, those areas related to decision making (the frontal and parietal areas) will be strengthened to offer us a greater cognitive reserve.

Because an agile and strong brain that delights in the world of calculation and mathematics, faces the passage of time with better resources, with greater pleasure and security.

What are the benefits of logic games for children?

Acquiring knowledge is essential for children and it’s not only about studying but also about having fun. Logic games are a good option for children (and adults) to continue learning and enjoy themselves.

Some of the benefits that logic games bring to children are the following:

  • Increased concentration. Logic games require attention so children will learn to concentrate and develop that ability for other aspects of their lives such as study.
  • Development of critical thinking. Critical thinking involves the human capacity to evaluate information on a topic, to see if it’s real and to form a justified idea that does not take into account external biases. Logic games encourage this type of thinking and help children to question things and wonder why.
  • Increased ability to use language and numbers. Logic games teach children rules and tricks with language and numbers that they can apply to other aspects of their lives.
  • Increased self-esteem. Solving logic problems helps boys and girls believe in themselves and build their self-esteem.
  • Mental flexibility. Logic games help children learn to think differently, innovate and apply all creativity.

The logic of calculation, creativity and decision making

There is no branch of mathematics, however abstract it may be, that does not allow us to apply its dimensions to the real world. It’s not just about being clever strategists when it comes to accounting or getting children to improve their scores on exams in this area.

Let’s see in detail more benefits that, possibly, you did not know.

The left hemisphere

The left hemisphere processes information analytically and step by step. This is where many of those tasks related to calculation, arithmetic, numbering and that logic that allow us to analyze reality in a more detailed and sequential way come on.

Something that we must bear in mind about these processes is that they are not carried out in isolation. The brain is a fine and wonderful machine that, although it has very specialized areas, works together. Therefore, a left hemisphere competent in calculation optimizes in turn that creative area, that artistic and emotional lateral thinking located in the right area.

So, is mathematics good for the brain?

Galileo used to say that nature is written in mathematical language, since any element that surrounds us can be associated with a concept of this science. In fact, the origin of mathematics can be traced back to the first times of the human species, and its use to estimate magnitudes, distances and sizes.

This can be a subject rejected academically, and even marked as impossible for many students. For some reason it’s linked to a complexity that it does not always possess.

Despite this rejection, it’s necessary to point out that mathematics is constituted as the language that the brain uses to interpret the world. Indeed, although this process goes unnoticed, research carried out at Princeton University and published in the Journal of Neuroscience showed that the brain uses the calculation of probabilities as a method to make everyday decisions.

Like it or not, understood or not, the link between the human brain and mathematics is for life.

As we acquire greater agility and competence, we will notice it in our daily life. An analytical mind and skillful in the harmonious balance of numbers, is able to better analyze the information in its environment, attend to the different options and, in turn, ignite the engines of creativity and the world of abstraction to get more correct answers.

FAQS: Is mathematics good for the brain?

Does math help the brain?

Due to its characteristics, Mathematics becomes the ideal method to stimulate and train the brain. … They are the only system that connects the two cerebral hemispheres, thus increasing creativity. Being a mental system improves memory, agility and mental capacity.

Does maths make you smarter?

No, math doesn’t make you smarter. Intelligence stands out from various fields and forms and not necessarily through complex areas such as mathematics

What part of your brain does math?

The exact calculations depend on the left frontal lobe, the lobe responsible for language, and the association between words. Mathematical approximations or estimates use the right hemisphere, although the left hemisphere may also participate.

Does math rewire your brain?

If you study math consistently, you will improve. That means you will ‘’rewire’’ your brain.

Does Math improve memory?

Yes, being a mental system, mathematics improves memory, agility and mental capacity.

In this brief guide we are going to answer the question ‘’Is mathematics good for the brain?’’ 

We explained the special relationship of mathematics with the human brain, we introduced you to the brain region where mathematics happens and the benefits that mathematics brings to the brain and mind.

References

Radford, T. (2001, August 28). Maths builds brain muscles. Retrieved October 30, 2020, from the Guardian website: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2001/aug/28/schools.highereducation#:~:text=Mental%20arithmetic%20bulks%20up%20brain,no%20other%20activity%20can%20reach.

Jordana Cepelewicz. (2016, April 12). How Does a Mathematician’s Brain Differ from That of a Mere Mortal? Retrieved October 30, 2020, from Scientific American website: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-does-a-mathematician-s-brain-differ-from-that-of-a-mere-mortal/

Prescott, J., Gavrilescu, M., Cunnington, R., O’Boyle, M. W., & Egan, G. F. (2010). Enhanced brain connectivity in math-gifted adolescents: An fMRI study using mental rotation. Cognitive Neuroscience, 1(4), 277-288.

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