Effects of Mathematics on the Brain
The effects of mathematics on the brain have been studied by many researchers. There are studies that show that mathematical equations affect the brain in a way similar to that in which the brain is affected by good art. Through a research in which participants were asked to rate mathematical equations as beautiful or ugly, it was established that the changes in the brain that occur as a result of engaging a beautiful mathematical equation were similar to changes observed when listening to good music or viewing a beautiful piece of art. Magnetic Resonance Images (MRI) of the brain showed that there was an increase in brain activity when engaged in a beautiful equation as compared to an ugly equation. Because of the linked between emotions and mathematical equations, it was also established that knowledge of mathematical equations is not linked to intelligence but rather to memory.
The relationship between mathematical equations and memory was determined through a study during which 28 children were participants (Menon et al., 2014). The children were given a set of addition problems to tackle and their brain scans recorded via MRI. The children were expected to report whether the set of equations were right or wrong. A repeat of the same experiment with the same children after one year showed that the children relied more on memory than on the problems themselves. When working with adults, different results were obtained. Another study confirmed that one’s mathematical ability can be improved by passing a small electric current through the brain (Underwood, 2013). The impact was related to up to six months gain in capability. These findings were however disputed by various other studies.
Menon, V., Qin, S., Cho, S., Chen, T., Rosenberg-Lee, M., & Geary, D. (2014). Hippocampal
neocortical functional reorganization underlies children’s cognitive development.
Nature Neuroscience, 17, 1263–1269.
Underwood, E. (2013). Math Skills Improved By Electric Shocks To Brain, Study Suggests. Web 04 December 2014. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/17/math-skills-electric-shockbrain_n_3291817.html
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