Making the Brain Better at Math

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By Christina Sevilla; Center Director and Owner of LearningRx- Denver and Centennial
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Many people believe your brain is either hard-wired to do math, or it isn’t and you have to live with it. This just isn’t true. With all that we now know in the field of neuroplasticity, it is clear that our brain can change and nothing is hard-wired in. With proper experiences and training, the way our brain works can be altered.

I love math, but everyday I meet with a parent or a child who HATES math. This is hard to hear because many math troubles can be fixed and because math doesn't go away. Feeling strong and comfortable with the in’s and out’s of math follows us from school to our adult lives as we budget, fund IRA's, shop sales, buy cars, and so much more. 



Dyslexia gets a lot of press and most of society has a basic understanding of what dyslexia is and how it affects learning. Dyscalculia is relatively less understood and less discussed, but not necessarily less common. Dyscalculia involves a large range of difficulties with math skills and varies greatly between people. These difficulties often revolve around four main cognitive skills.

  • Visual processing: the ability to visualize information and process what the eye sees. (A big one for geometry!)
  • Working Memory: the ability to hold numbers in brain and still be able to perform operations and other actions. (Very important for mental math)
  • Long-Term Memory: the ability to learn something and remember that information after several days or weeks. (Learning Times Tables and then remembering them in the future)
  • Logic and Reasoning: the ability to make logical connections between pieces of information including cause and effect. (Word problems, word problems, word problems) 

Some common signs that a student may be struggling with dyscalculia are: 

  • Difficulty learning math facts
  • Reversing or transposing numbers (89 becomes 98)
  • Difficulty with mental math
  • Trouble telling time and direction
  • Difficulty differentiating between left and right
  • Difficulty with mentally estimating distance of an object
  • Trouble with sequencing
  • Longer-than-normal homework sessions
  • Inability to concentrate on mentally taxing tasks
  • Poor recollection of names and faces
  • Inability to filter unwanted information 

Luckily for anyone struggling with math, a weakness in cognitive skills is often the real problem and brain training can improve the underlying skills and improve math ability.

By improving the way the brain works and remembers information, we can make math and all other subjects increasingly easier and more enjoyable. Brain training can take a math hater and change them into someone confident and comfortable with math for the rest of his or her life!

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