Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Math, in the Blink of an Eye

As someone who has studied a lot of math, I find this article intriguing.

Be sure to check out the fun little "blink and you'll miss it" counting test that is referenced in the article.

I believe that our ability to do math probably involves several different areas of the brain. I can do calculus, but for me, it mostly just involves following the rules. On the other hand, anything involving geometry has always been very intuitive for me-- I can easily visualize Statics, Kinematics, and Dynamics problems in 2-D, or even 3-D.

SIDEBAR: For the non-engineers in the audience:

  • Statics = How loads are distributed through (hopefully) non-moving objects like bridges.

  • Kinematics = How mechanisms (like levers and gears) move.

  • Dynamics = How things accelerate and impact other things.

My master's thesis involved developing a computer program to calculate the forces and moments generated at the shoulder due to dynamic, 3-dimensional arm movements.

But I can't do basic math in my head to save my life.

My husband can do all sorts of calculations in his head, while I'm lucky to be able to add one two-digit number to another. An average fifth grader could easily beat me in a multiplication time-test.

It only makes sense to say that there must be several different types of "math" which are processed by different areas in the brain. Surely everyone has strengths and weaknesses in different areas.

Unfortunately, lots of kids get turned off by math at an early age. (I hated math in 4th & 5th grades.) Maybe there are people who would have discovered an unexpected gift for calculus, but they gave up after struggling through algebra and geometry? It makes you wonder...

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