Friday, January 27, 2023

Is it good to suppress math in the education of young teens?

Miguel Escudero, polymath mathematician

It wouldn’t be strange if the science/papers dispute that teachers and students traditionally encounter in high school and lose a good part of its importance when they start their university studies, And may even disappear, if mathematics does not exist, a subject that many students despise because they find it complex and difficult to understand. This is not the only one, but the rejection of mathematics has often become the main argument for many teenagers, who choose to pursue careers of a scientific nature such as physics and chemistry, engineering, architecture, economics, or even science, biology. Don’t want to follow.

This is why the education systems of some countries allow, or do not stop considering, that at some point in their basic and elementary education, students who wish may choose to stop studying mathematics. Admittedly, for legislators, teachers and even parents, the harm caused by this choice will not have particular relevance to young people’s future, because, after all, the mathematics required in daily life is learned by itself as it is deeply rooted in the minds of the people. interested.

But it turns out that math education and its achievements are important, not only because they are linked to quality-of-life indices, such as educational attainment, employment, socioeconomic status and financial stability of people, but also because childhood Since time immemorial the development of this type of education has been associated with the development of the mind and the promotion of its various capacities. All this without forgetting that mathematics provides a mental structure or scaffolding on which to establish and organize the physical world we live in.

Mathematics education matters, it is linked to quality of life indicators, such as educational attainment, employment, socioeconomic status and financial stability of people

This is why a group of researchers from the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford and the Center for Mathematical Cognition at Loughborough University in the United Kingdom set out to find out whether dropping out of maths education in young people could lead to a change in maths. Is. The functioning of brain areas that guarantee the processing of numbers.

With this aim, in a large cohort of adolescents, boys and girls, 16 to 18 years of age, and using spectroscopy and functional magnetic resonance techniques, they scanned and analyzed the chemistry and chemistry of neurons of the intraparietal sulcus and the median nerve. Functional connections observed. The frontal gyrus is the region of the brain that has been implicated in numeracy and solving mathematical problems, respectively, as confirmed by a recent meta-analysis.

First, and as expected, students who stopped math lessons showed lower performance in numerical operations and mathematical reasoning, as well as on anxiety tests related to these types of activity, compared to students who continued to study them. Got high marks. What was new, however, was that adolescent students who lacked math education, compared to those who did, showed a significant decrease in the neurotransmitter GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid) in the middle frontal gyrus of the brain.

GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, this means that a lack of math education reduces inhibitory activity in a key area of ​​the brain that is involved in reasoning, complex computation, and algorithmic processing, more precisely, in both children and adults. has been implicated. The inhibition of neuron activity plays an important role in brain processing by allowing information to be transmitted smoothly and avoiding redundancy and interference.

From early childhood, math learning has been linked to brain development, which provides a mental structure within which to establish and organize the physical world we live in.

What was more surprising was that the concentration of the GABA neurotransmitter in the middle frontal gyrus of the brain not only allowed us to know whether the teen was studying math, but was also a good predictor of their mathematical reasoning ability, although numerical operations after approximately 19 months, which also suggests the implications of mathematics education for the plasticity and development of the adolescent brain.

These results have been published in the prestigious North American journal PNASconfirm the critical role of the GABA neurotransmitter in plasticity and brain function, show negative consequences of a specific disadvantage of math education in adolescence, and reveal the reciprocal effect between brain development and education.

However, it remains to be determined to what extent this damage can lead to difficulties in the development of various other mental processes associated with learning and mathematical reasoning.

Intelligence is a space that tries to explain in an accessible way how the brain forms the mind and controls behavior. Senses, motivations and emotions, sleep, learning and memory, language and consciousness, as well as their main disorders will be analyzed in the firm belief that knowing how they work is the key to better knowing yourself and your well-being and relationships. is equal to increasing . other people.

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