Why do some kids fear math?

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New York, Aug 18 (IANS) Are you one of those who used to detest math during childhood and often dreamed of growing up and doing anything but math? You may now have an answer.

Researchers, including an Indian-origin scientist from Stanford University’s school of medicine, have now found why some kids are better at retrieving facts fluently, crucial to solving math problems.

“This work provides insight into the dynamic changes that occur over the course of cognitive development in each child,” said Vinod Menon, a professor of psychiatry and behavioural sciences and the senior author of the study.

“The hippocampus provides a scaffold for learning and consolidating facts into long-term memory in children,” Menon added.

The hippocampus is a region with many roles in shaping new memories.

In the study, 28 children solved simple math problems while receiving two functional magnetic resonance imaging brain scans; the scans were done about 1.2 years apart.

The hippocampus was activated more in children’s brains after one year. Regions involved in counting, including parts of the prefrontal and parietal cortex, were activated less.

The scientists saw changes in the degree to which the hippocampus was connected to other parts of children’s brains, with several parts of the prefrontal, anterior temporal cortex and parietal cortex more strongly connected to the hippocampus after one year.

Crucially, the stronger these connections, the greater was each individual child’s ability to retrieve math facts from memory, the findings showed.

The study appeared in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

Last modified: August 18, 2014

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