Why Mental Arithmetic Counts

By Dr. Marciene Mattleman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – How do students perform the simplest math problems? It turns out that data from an interesting study about mental arithmetic is reported in an abstract in Education Week by Sarah D. Sparks.

Using MRI, researchers scanned the brains of 43 high school students who were asked to perform single digit arithmetic. They then compared the results with students’ preliminary S.A.T. scores.

Those who did well in the math section of the PSAT showed more activity in the brain area linked to memory of math facts. Students with lower math PSAT scores had less brain activity in those areas associated with processing number quantities.

It seems that high achieving students knew the answers by memory, while lower-performing students calculated the low level problems.

Maybe the study makes the case for everybody learning the “times tables!”

Read details of the study in the January issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.

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