Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

No math gene: Learning mathematics takes practice

Date:
December 16, 2013
Source:
The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)
Summary:
New research shows that if you want to be good at math, you have to practice all different kinds of mathematics.

New research shows that if you want to be good at math, you have to practice all different kinds of mathematics.
Credit: © Petro Feketa / Fotolia

New research from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology shows that if you want to be good at math, you have to practice all different kinds of mathematics.

What makes someone good at math? A love of numbers, perhaps, but a willingness to practice, too. And even if you are good at one specific type of math, you can't trust your innate abilities enough to skip practicing other types if you want to be good.

New research at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim could have an effect on how math is taught. If you want to be really good at all types of math, you need to practice them all. You can't trust your innate natural talent to do most of the job for you.

This might seem obvious to some, but it goes against the traditional view that if you are good at math, it is a skill that you are simply born with.

Professor Hermundur Sigmundsson at Department of Psychology is one of three researchers involved in the project. The results have been published in Psychological Reports.

The numbers The researchers tested the math skills of 70 Norwegian fifth graders, aged 10.5 years on average. Their results suggest that it is important to practice every single kind of math subject to be good at all of them, and that these skills aren't something you are born with.

"We found support for a task specificity hypothesis. You become good at exactly what you practice," Sigmundsson says.

Nine types of math tasks were tested, from normal addition and subtraction, both orally and in writing, to oral multiplication and understanding the clock and the calendar.

"Our study shows little correlation between (being good at) the nine different mathematical skills, Sigmundsson said. "For instance there is little correlation between being able to solve a normal addition in the form of '23 + 67' and addition in the form of a word problem."

This example might raise a few eyebrows. Perhaps basic math is not a problem for the student, but the reading itself is. Up to 20 per cent of Norwegian boys in secondary school have problems with reading. Sigmundsson also finds support in everyday examples.

"Some students will be good at geometry, but not so good at algebra," he says.

If that is the case they have to practice more algebra, which is the area where most students in secondary school have problems.

"At the same time this means there is hope for some students. Some just can't be good at all types of math, but at least they can be good at geometry, for example," he says.

It is this finding that might in the end help change the way math is taught.

Support in neurology The fact that you are good at precisely what you practice is probably due to the fact that different kinds of practice activate different neural connections.

The results can also be transferred to other areas. The football player who practices hitting the goal from 25 yards with a perfectly placed shot will become good at exactly this. But she is not necessarily good at tackling or reading the game.

"This is also supported by new insights in neurology. With practice you develop specific neural connections," says Sigmundsson.

The research has been carried out in cooperation with Professor Remco C. J. Polmand at Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia and PhD candidate Håvard Lorås at the Faculty of Health Education and Social Work, Division of Physiotherapy, Sør-Trøndelag University College, Trondheim.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. H. Sigmundsson, R. C. J. Polman, H. Lorås. EXPLORING INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES IN CHILDREN'S MATHEMATICAL SKILLS: A CORRELATIONAL AND DIMENSIONAL APPROACH1. Psychological Reports, 2013; 113 (1): 23 DOI: 10.2466/04.10.PR0.113x12z2

Cite This Page:

The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). "No math gene: Learning mathematics takes practice." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 December 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131216102844.htm>.
The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). (2013, December 16). No math gene: Learning mathematics takes practice. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131216102844.htm
The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). "No math gene: Learning mathematics takes practice." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131216102844.htm (accessed September 16, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

AP (Sep. 15, 2014) — The FDA is considering whether to ban devices used by the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton, Massachusetts, the only place in the country known to use electrical skin shocks as aversive conditioning for aggressive patients. (Sept. 15) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Newsy (Sep. 13, 2014) — A U.K. survey found that journalists consumed the most amount of coffee, but that's only the tip of the coffee-related statistics iceberg. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) — In a small study, researchers found that the majority of long-time smokers quit after taking psilocybin pills and undergoing therapy sessions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Fat Shaming' Might Actually Cause Weight Gain

'Fat Shaming' Might Actually Cause Weight Gain

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) — A study for University College London suggests obese people who are discriminated against gain more weight than those who are not. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins