A pure mathematician deals not so much with numbers, as we remember our arithmetic classes, but with extreme abstractions that are built with reasoning and many lines of proofs into even more abstract results. To many people, these abstractions often seem to have no reference to the "real" world. It may be difficult for many people who have had bad experiences in the past, to think of mathematics as a potential art form. However, as is the case with the other intelligences discussed so far, the creative genius that sparks new theories and applications seems to reside in the right hemisphere. (A lot of readers would simply like to know where the average mathematical skills are based!)
The only available information regarding the location of mathematical abilities is from observation of those individuals who have suffered damage to the brain through an accident or stroke, or who required surgery. Gerstmann Syndrome is the designation for damage to the left parietal lobes and the temporal and occipital association areas adjoining them (part of the angular gyrus). Damage to these areas reduces the ability to orient oneself in space, understand certain grammatical structures (such as prepositional phrases and passive constructions), tell left from right, and perform numerical calculations. It also creates difficulty in drawing. The syndrome is characterized by damaging effects to the association cortexes in the posterior areas of the dominant hemi-sphere—those associated with recognizing ordered arrays and patterns visually (see Figure 2-10).
Deficits in calculation abilities can be grouped into three main categories:
1. Alexic and agraphic acalculia—difficulty in reading and writing numbers
2. Spatial acalculia—difficulty in dealing with the spatial organization of written numbers
3. Anarithmetria—difficulty with the calculation itself
The first two types of deficits (difficulty in visualizing numbers) are linked to the visual system and/or associative memory areas. Damage to the posterior portion of the left hemisphere, near Wernicke's area, results in the calculation disability.
Essential to the logical-mathematical ability, the frontal lobes play an important part in organization skills. The ability to plan a strategy to achieve a specific goal is housed in this area. Damage to the frontal lobes leaves an individual with not only an inability to plan a problem-solving strategy but also the inability to set goals and follow through in everyday life.
Figure 2-10 Area for mathematical calculation r
Figure 2-10 Area for mathematical calculation
The ability to handle mathematics successfully is somewhat dependent on the strength of the individual's spatial abilities (as in music). Also of importance is the ability to understand fully numerical relationships and concepts. Because this requires a sense of intuition and feeling instead of sequential proof, this ability is lodged in the right hemisphere. Again, this is rather similar to the organization of the brain when dealing with music. Music seems to lend a sense of order and beauty to expressions that mathematicians and scientists enjoy and appreciate. Teaching young children a musical instrument or exposing them to music, especially the classics, helps to organize their thought pro-cesses and make children more successful in mathematics.22
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