According to their findings, some people who have struggled in mathematics may have brain abnormalities. Recently researchers coined the 'procedural deficit hypothesis' to describe why some people are bad at math.

Research scientists have concluded that some parts of the brain are responsible for mathematical thinking. These parts are basal ganglia, anterior cingulate cortex, frontal, parietal and spatial lobes. If one of these parts are impaired due to congenital and environmental factors, a person may struggle with mathematics and even science. For example; the anterior cingulate cortex and the spatial lobe are integral for problem solving and visualization.

“Given that the development of math skills involves their automatization, it makes sense that the dysfunction of procedural memory could lead to math disability. In fact, aspects of math that tend to be automatized, such as arithmetic, are problematic in children with math disability. Moreover, since these children often also have dyslexia or developmental language disorder, the disorders may share causal mechanisms,”

Michael T. Ullman, PhD, professor of neuroscience at Georgetown.

The frontal lobe is responsible for our procedural and short-term memory which includes most mathematical processes. Impairment of this part may cause some people to have difficulties in following mathematical steps and remembering numbers as well. Researchers also noted that mathematics thrives on automaticity and unconscious proficiency. People who had a hard time dealing with math problems may struggle to achieve automaticity.

How about those people with real math disability? Luckily, our brain has a special property called the plasticity, which enables it to compensate for the deficiencies of one part into proficiency in other areas of the brain. They may not excel in math but they may be proficient in other fields.

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