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Brain measurements predict math progress with tutoring

Structure associated with memory formation predicts learning ability

A child who is good at learning math may literally have a head for numbers.

Kids’ brain structures and wiring are associated with how much their math skills improve after tutoring, researchers report April 29 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Certain measures of brain anatomy were even better at judging learning potential than traditional measures of ability such as IQ and standardized test results, says study author Kaustubh Supekar of Stanford University. These signatures include the size of the hippocampus — a string bean–shaped structure involved in making memories — and how connected the area was with other parts of the brain.

The findings suggest that kids struggling with their math homework aren’t necessarily slacking off, says cognitive scientist David Geary of the University of Missouri in Columbia. “They just may not have as much brain region devoted to memory formation as other kids.”

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