Why is it important to study mathematics? What do learning and knowing math do to your brain?

We often dread the subject of mathematics, however, there are some advantages to studying the subject. This article will understand why it is important to study mathematics and what learning and knowing math do to your brain. In the end, the article will answer some frequently asked questions.

Why is it important to study mathematics? What do learning and knowing math do to your brain?

Students often take the first opportunity they get to drop mathematics. People only want to study maths for as long as they need to. Apart from the educational and career perspective, it also benefits our brain. Among other things, studying mathematics can improve our problem-solving strategies, and give us skills that we can use across multiple areas.

Even though solving complex calculus sums and mathematical equations is a plus point of studying maths, there’s a lot more to it. The main aim of maths is to find solutions to problems; however, these need not be mathematical in nature. 

Mathematics can also help you develop other problem-solving skills like identifying patterns, working backwards, and visualizing- this is because solving math problems activates the parts of the brain involved in these cognitive functions.

Maths improves creativity and observation skills. This is because creative thinking requires the ability to generalise. Generalising is the process of picking out similar patterns or properties across multiple cases, and being able to convey the governing rule to give a description of said common property, pattern, or relation. 

But before generalising, it is important to scrutinize and analyse the case, in order to point out the things that are similar and those that are not, become aware of the things that fluctuate and the things that remain constant or rearrange examples in an order to be able to highlight the pattern. This helps in becoming more observant and developing creative thinking.

The brain is a muscle and math is an exercise that is necessary to strengthen it. Studies show that while video games activate the brain regions associated with vision and movement, simple mathematic operations displayed activity in both the left and right hemispheres of the frontal lobe. 

The fact that maths could activate both hemispheres of the brain at the same time, challenged the popular notion that technical things like math are under the domain of the left hemisphere or that right-handed people are better at mathematics. 

Further, it is thanks to modern brain imaging techniques like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET) that studies like this can be undertaken in the first place.

Professional mathematicians or mathletes work on their cerebral function which in turn keeps their brain energized, and maintains the brain’s health and working condition. 

Just like a machine gets rusted and stops working efficiently when it is not being used, so does the brain. Researchers have compared the human brain to a machine, and a very complicated one at that. 

Thus, to keep the human brain functioning at optimal levels, mathematics is an effective tool. In a lot of ways, mathematics is to the brain what physical exercise is to the body.

In recent years, a lot of studies have been done to study the relationship between mathematics and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. 

Studies show that learning different languages helps in ensuring protective effects and learning mathematics at a progressively higher level than at one in which we are mimics the same effect. This is because math is also said to be a “formal language” and is often dubbed the language of the universe. 

Additionally, it also illustrates that moving outside of one’s level of comfort and learning new things acts as an exercise for the brain. Research also suggests that brain training modules which make use of mathematics also have a protective effect on the brain as they work on the development of the brain’s plasticity. 

“Plasticity” is the ability of the brain to change its regular route and pathways of connection in order to boost thinking or recover from damage to the brain. Just like as children, solving math problems helps us develop our cognitive abilities, in older age, solving math problems of an even higher difficulty challenges our brain and helps us retain our cognitive abilities.

Why is studying Math so difficult?

While the human brain itself has evolved over hundreds and thousands of years and has adapted and adjusted to the various problems in the material and personal world. 

However, maths is a very recent activity- numbers were created only 10,000 years ago. While 10,000 years may seem a lot to us, compared to the thousands of years of human evolution, and the billions of years for which the world has existed, it is not much. 

So, the brain is yet to learn how to deal with numbers. This is why we still have trouble with mathematics, as compared to language, even though learning a language is much more complicated than basic maths.

How can I get better at Math?

If you are not good at maths, don’t be nervous. Here are some tips to get better at maths. The easiest way to improve math skills these days is to use apps and games that make use of mathematics. 

Computer games or mobile apps like these are available in abundance. Some of them are DragonBox 5+, which helps build up algebra skills, and Polyup, a calculator-based game better suited for high school and college students. 

Another trick is to use maths in everyday scenarios and make use of mental maths. When solving math problems, write down all the steps so it will be easier for you to spot your mistakes if there are any. 

Practice word problems by drawing out the visuals and working through them. Giving yourself examples of mathematical concepts is another way of improving math skills and remembering concepts better.

These days, there are online classes for almost everything. Math is no exception. If you are stuck with a math problem, you can always search the internet, especially for YouTube videos and tutorials. Always make sure to go level-wise- start with easy topics, or with topics you are well versed with and then go to the next.

And remember, practice makes perfect. This is truer for mathematics than for anything else. Set out a particular time every day to practice math and make it a part of your daily routine. Practice makes perfect. 

What brain area processes Arithmetics?

The left hemisphere of the brain is dominant when it comes to controlling mathematical processing, language, and logical processing. 

The left hemisphere of the cerebrum is responsible for controlling the right side of the body. It is logical and rational, and more academic-oriented. It is responsible for logic, language, reasoning, processing of science and math, writing, and right-hand control.

Conclusion

This article covered why it is important to study mathematics and what learning and knowing math do to your brain. In the end, the article will answer some frequently asked questions.

Frequently Asked Questions: Why is it important to study mathematics What does learning and knowing math do to your brain?

What is the result of left hemisphere damage?

When the damage is on the left hemisphere, it can make it difficult for people to acquire spoken or written language. They report not seeing things on the right side of their bodies. They also have a condition of limb apraxia, or motor skills problems (Samnia et al., 2000) and they tend to move slower and more carefully. 

What is the result of right hemisphere damage?

Damage to the right hemisphere of the brain can cause people to have difficulties with visual perception as well as spatial orientation (Newcombe & Russell, 1969), They can’t see the left side of their body at times, they can also become impulsive and make wrong or bad decisions. They have short attention spans, bad reading abilities (Neininger & Pulvermüller, 2003), and difficulty in being creative. They also report problems in learning new skills. 

What are the 3 basic units of the brain?

The forebrain, the midbrain, and the hindbrain are the three basic units into which the brain can be divided.

References

Newcombe F, Russell WR. Dissociated visual perceptual and spatial deficits in focal lesions of the right hemisphere. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 1969 Apr;32(2):73–81. PMCID: PMC496446.

Neininger B, Pulvermüller F. Word-category specific deficits after lesions in the right hemisphere. Neuropsychologia. 2003;41(1):53-70. doi: 10.1016/s0028-3932(02)00126-4. PMID: 12427565.

Smania N, Girardi F, Domenicali C, Lora E, Aglioti S. The rehabilitation of limb apraxia: a study in left-brain-damaged patients. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2000 Apr;81(4):379-88. doi: 10.1053/mr.2000.6921. PMID: 10768524.

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