Math can be as scary as spiders and snakes, at least in the brain of an 8-year-old child. And that early anxiety about dealing with numbers can put a child at a significant disadvantage, not only in school but in negotiating life and a career. Fortunately, a study of third-graders, published this week in the Journal of Neuroscience, suggests an intervention that can help. One-on-one tutoring does more than teach kids, the researchers say. It calms the fear circuitry in the brain, and this leads directly to better math scores.
What is mathematics? There are many definitions floating around, but one could argue that it is a language we use to describe and explain certain aspects of our world. It has its own set of vocabulary and symbols, and we can use these to create sentences and statements. As long as we follow the appropriate “grammar” rules, these sentences will mean the same thing to each person who encounters them — as long as that person knows the language! Math can be learned, in other words, as a second language!
The city of Boston, with its booming tech scene and surrounding collection of women’s colleges, seems to have all the tools necessary to inject a steady stream of female computer scientists into the workforce. It’s a stream that has been reduced to a trickle around the country.