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A year adds up to big changes in brain

Third grade a turning point in how kids solve math problems

4:51pm, June 3, 2011

Neuroscientists have confirmed what any kid knows: Third grade changes everything. Compared to kids just out of second grade, recent third-grade graduates use their brains in an entirely different way when solving math problems, a study in an upcoming NeuroImage finds.   

“I think this is really fascinating,” says cognitive neuroscientist Daniel Ansari of the University of Western Ontario in London, Canada. “Anybody who doesn’t believe that development is important needs to read this paper, because it really shows how dynamically the brain changes as we learn.”

Cognitive neuroscientist Vinod Menon of the Stanford University School of Medicine and his colleagues recruited 90 children, aged 7 to 9, who had just completed either second or third grade.

The youngsters calculated easy (3 + 1 = 4) or more complex (8 + 5 = 13) addition problems while Menon and his team scanned the children’s brains using functiona

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