I am sure when some of you think of math, it is with the greatest love or appreciation, and you’re just like me. For others, not so much. But independent of what you feel, math is important for activating certain regions of your brain and maintaining your development as you become an adult. It helps you gain certain problem-solving skills that can help you later in life, whether it’s in a job or in making logical decisions everyday, and it keeps your brain in shape. To understand how staying connected to math (or any form of logic) helps enhance our problem-solving skills, we need to understand how our brain develops a skill. When we perform certain actions repeatedly over time, we are inherently training our brain to rewire and get stronger at those actions and related behaviors. This idea of training our brain is called neuroplasticity. For example, when we practice counting regularly, our addition skill strengthens and becomes natural at some point. In a study done to observe the effects between studying math and brain development, the findings “demonstrate the negative consequences of a specific lack of education during adolescence on brain plasticity and cognitive functions”. As you continuously practice something, synaptic pruning occurs. This is essentially the process of sharpening your brain by rewiring it to concentrate on certain functions, and in this case, math. However, by helping your brain hone the math related skills, you become more adept at other skills that stem from the same regions of the brain.
Brain images show that the posterior parietal and prefrontal cortex are key in making calculations and using working memory. These regions of the brain, located adjacent to each other, have strong connections for which “even the simplest cognitive tasks draw simultaneously on multiple regions”.
These regions are responsible for integrating sensory information and performing high level functions, which are both extremely important for math and other actions in your daily life. By taking part in age-appropriate math activities during your educational years, it will help activate parts of the brain that are extremely useful for other critical thinking activities. So even if you don’t aspire to become a mathematician in the future, staying in touch with math often is important for whatever you pursue.
In addition to my high school math workouts, my elementary and middle school math fitness work has kept my brain feeling active everyday. By making sure I apply my critical thinking skills everyday for at least an hour, I feel like my brain stays in shape— just like an athlete works out to keep their body in shape. It not only gets the cogs in your head going, but also gives you great reasoning abilities that you can use in science, programming, or any class that involves using logical steps to create an argument. I could go on and on about how much math helps my life and how much I love it, but I think it suffices to say it is quite advantageous to make math (no matter the difficulty) a part of your life.
Math everyday for the brain is a way to keep your brain fit: solve a quick puzzle, just calculate distance between your school and home, or even estimate how many people watch a certain tv show every night around the world. I think you get the idea. Just do any form of math and give the brain the cardio it needs!