If you don’t like mathematics, you already have a reason to learn it: not doing it negatively affects cognitive development

If you don't like mathematics, you already have a reason to learn it: not doing it negatively affects cognitive development

According to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , a lack of math education negatively affects the brain and cognitive development of adolescents .

The study was carried out, of course, with a modest sample size: 133 students between 14 and 18 years old who participated in an experiment carried out by researchers from the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford.

Mathematical disadvantage

Unlike most countries in the world, in the UK, 16-year-olds may decide to discontinue their mathematics education . This situation allowed the team to examine whether this specific lack of mathematics education in students who come from a similar background could affect brain development and cognition.

The study suggests that students who did not study mathematics had less of a chemical crucial to brain plasticity (gamma-aminobutyric acid) in a key region of the brain involved in many important cognitive functions, including reasoning, problem solving. , math, memory and learning.

Based on the amount of brain chemical found in each student, the researchers were able to discriminate between adolescents who did and did not study math , regardless of their cognitive abilities. Additionally, the amount of this brain chemical successfully predicted changes in math performance score around 19 months later.

In particular, the researchers found no difference in brain chemicals before the teens stopped studying math. According to Roi Cohen Kadosh , a professor of cognitive neuroscience at the University of Oxford, led the study.

Math skills are associated with a variety of benefits, including employment, socioeconomic status, and mental and physical health. Adolescence is an important period in life that is associated with major brain and cognitive changes. Unfortunately, the opportunity to stop studying mathematics at this age seems to create a gap between adolescents who drop out of their mathematics education compared to those who continue it. Our study provides a new level of biological understanding of the impact of education on the developing brain and the mutual effect between biology and education. It is not yet known how this disparity, or its long-term implications, can be prevented. Not all teens enjoy math, so we need to investigate possible alternatives, such as logic and reasoning training that involve the same area of ​​the brain as math.