Studying Math Beyond Age 16 Is Good For Brain Development

Math is vital in learning as it gives students important life skills. For example, they can measure, solve problems, use and understand shapes, to mention but a few. With the skills gained, a child can apply mathematics in society. That is why Math is just as important as early reading. Granted, learners hate math as according to them, it requires too much thinking. In the UK, they are allowed to quit Mathematics at 16 in favor of Humanities, but at what cost?

How Lack of Math Education Negatively Affects Adolescent Brain Development

A team of researchers from the University of Oxford carried out a study on how quitting math’s at age 16 negatively affects a child’s cognitive and brain development. The study was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

133 students aged between 14 and 18 took part in the study conducted by scientists from the Department of Experimental Psychology. They wanted to know whether quitting math could impact brain development and cognition in teens.

They found that students who discontinued math had a reduced gamma-Aminobutyric acid in the brain area that supports maths, memory, learning, reasoning, and problem-solving. The GABA neurotransmitter in the brain is not only responsible for regulating communication between brain cells, but it also has a function related to mental arithmetic.

What is astounding is the fact that the amount of GABA brain chemicals in the students successfully predicted cognitive performance 19 months later. The fact that before they stopped studying there were no differences found in the brain chemical is also noteworthy.

Lead Researcher Roi Cohen Kadesh, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience said that because most adolescents don’t enjoy math, alternatives to it should be found. The possible alternatives include training in logic and reasoning which engage the same brain areas like math. This is because math is part of children’s everyday lives.

That said, why do students hate math?

Why Do Students Hate Math?

The performance of math worldwide is not appealing. Learners have called math ‘too hard’ or even ‘dull’. Apart from these, what other reasons are there?

1. Memorization

The rules and equations have to be mastered first before the student can successfully tackle questions.

2. Poor Foundation

Just as a poor building foundation can lead a house to collapse, so do little understood concepts in early years.

3. Lack of Personalized Learning

Classroom learning requires reinforcement, which usually is lacking in most schools.

4. Students are either Right or Wrong

They can’t explain the answer in any other way apart from using a logical formula.

5. It Requires Lots of Practice

You don’t get it right the first time and relax, but you’ll need to practice concepts over and over.

That said, math is important as evidenced by scientific study. What can you do to help your child if he or she hates math?

How to Help Children Who Hate Math

  • Have a Positive Attitude: If you aren’t good at math, keep it to yourself. Your positive mindset will reflect on your child.
  • Make Math Fun: The traditional approach at times doesn’t work, so use game-based learning, math apps, Sudoku, etc. to liven up the child.
  • Familiarize Yourself With The Syllabus: To help your child, you’ll need to understand what is taught in school, and what isn’t.
  • Find Everyday Application: Math isn’t far removed from reality for activities like gardening, shopping, a walk, etc. can be used to introduce concepts.
  • Daily Practice: Sit down and guide them with their homework as this will boost their esteem in the subject.

In the study, the researchers that also included George Zacharopolous, and Francesco Sella found that there were gaps between adolescents who quit maths and those who continued post-16.

It is clear that with the proper foundation, learners will not struggle or quit maths. And because quitting math negatively affects the brain and cognitive development of students, parents.

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