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why sometimes scientists are morons…

April 8, 2009

Although fractions are thought to be a difficult mathematical concept to learn, the adult brain encodes them automatically without conscious thought, according to new research in the April 8 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience.

via Adult Brain Processes Fractions ‘Effortlessly’.

As any math teacher could tell you, the problem is not that people have trouble understanding ratios, or, generally speaking, the relative value of fractions. The problem is in learning to think formally and logically about them. That’s why we give little kids, who can’t think abstractly, pictures of pizza or pie or dominos.  When we get older, we expect students to spout off formal rules about fractions: Quick, who can tell me how to find the common denominator?  Better, yet, who knows how to subtract: 3/5 – 2/7  ?  That requires at least 3 steps with formal rules to memorize.  Those formal, abstract rules are what’s tough.

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