Jan 232013

Question by doubt_is_freedom: What is it about math that makes it so difficult for so many people?
I would really like an answer from a neurological perspective (backed up by evidence) rather than baseless and unscientific educational theories. Are there any findings in neuroscience/neurology, neurochemistry, genetics, or MRI studies which shed light on the brain’s processing of math? What about those who excel in math from an early age (with little effort) are their brains somehow demonstrably different from the rest of the world?
OK, I’m aware of the right brain/ left brain thing, but many people who excel in music or art are also very good at math. And some who have great skill in logic and philosophy or language aren’t that good at math. I’m not sure that the hemisphere theory is really the answer. I’m very good at reasoning and critical thinking and making arguments, as well as the qualitative side of natural science (anthropology, biology, geology), but I’ve always struggled with math. The numbers just start “swimming” in my head after several minutes. I agree that “sequential” tasks (such as arithmetic) are where the difficulty lies; the “conceptual” part of math is not as much of a problem for me as the computational part.

Best answer:

Answer by Sugar
People poses talents for different things . Everyone is not gifted for math. Take me my gift is Science. It would be sad if every one could do the same thing .( Math) but nothing else. So I am happy we all have difference skills and talents. Now aren’t you.

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  2 Responses to “What is it about math that makes it so difficult for so many people?”

  1. They don’t fdo their home work on a regular basis so that they get the big picture of mathematical concepts. Each math problem is like a puzzle that can be solved with right answers. As Barbie says “math is hard”..

  2. This is my thinking based on research for my Masters Degree. Here is a very simplistic answer to a very complicated subject:
    The brain has areas that specialize in various activities. Sometimes they work together, but often they don’t. The right side of the brain controls actions on the left side of the body, and vice versa. The left side handles inputs that are sequential and concrete. The right side generally handles information that comes in whole–like the recognition of faces, recognizing music and so on. I can only use my own experiences to answer this. I grew up with music and books and became a teacher and tech writer, and feel most comfortable with words and seeing the desired outcome and figuring out how to achieve this. This is a right brain activity. The other side of the brain deals with sequential information such as required for math. I consider myself numerically challenged. Numbers are meaningless to me. I have two relatives whose phone numbers begin with 632 and 362. I have to look up their phone numbers every time I call, because I can’t remember which is which. I have no idea what anything costs. One of the pop tests going around to determine your brain preference is to see if you would prefer a map to get somewhere, or just the MapQuest/OnStar verbal instructions. I HAVE to have a map, even if just a mental one. I can’t do anything beyond basic math without a calculator, or a great deal of help. Algebra is the only subject I ever got lower than a B-A in either in high school, college, or post grad.
    I’m sure the technology has progressed a long way since I did this research, so there probably is a lot of new information out there. My major resource for my thesis was Gazzaniga.

    And, to answer your questions: Yes I think prodigies have different brain configurations. Something that fascinated me was the study by Gazzaniga with stroke victims who lost their language ability, and somehow were able to transfer this function to the other hemisphere. I am sure there are studies going on, but since I’m out of the field I don’t know what’s happening insofar as the study of brain hemispheric specialization.

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