Kids’ brains can predict math tutor benefit
May 2nd, 2013
07:02 AM ET

Kids’ brains can predict math tutor benefit

Kids don't all learn at the same pace, or in the same way. Extra tutoring doesn't always help either, but for some it helps a lot. Why?

Researchers, publishing this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, believe the answer is in the brain. By looking at the structures and wiring of children's brains, they've developed a method of predicting who will benefit most from tutoring.

This doesn't mean, however, that you will be seeing brain scans in every school.

"What we’ve done is much more modest, in terms of trying to understand what are the systems that underlie individual differences in response to math tutoring," said Vinod Menon, professor at Stanford University School of Medicine and senior author of the study.


The study looked at 24 children in third grade, ages 8 to 9, which is a critical period for gaining basic math skills. Menon's previous research, published in 2011, found that third-graders demonstrate superior problem-solving abilities compared to second-graders, and that this is also associated with brain changes.

While 24 is a small number of subjects, it's typical for a study involving functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

One group of children underwent tutoring for eight weeks; during that time, the others did not. Before this, scientists used brain scanning technology to examine the structures and wiring of the children's brains.


With tutoring, perhaps unsurprisingly, the researchers noticed that the kids were quicker and more accurate in their arithmetic problems. Some improved more than others.

"We observed a lot of variation in how much a child learns as a result of the tutoring, and we asked, what drives these individual differences?" Menon said. "Is there something in the brain structure and the way it’s wired that can predict whether child will learn a lot or a little?"

For math-phobic, numbers pose threat of pain

It appeared that IQ, working memory and initial math abilities had, on average, nothing to do with how much any given child improved during this time.

The magic formula, according to this study, was in the brain.

The volume of the hippocampus, a structure in the brain crucial for episodic memory, was associated with performance improvement with tutoring. It's instrumental in making memories for places and events over time. Researchers found it surprising that the same area appears to not only facilitate math learning, but also to predict math learning. Adults use a different brain system for learning.

How the hippocampus is functionally linked to other key areas involved in learning also appeared to be very important in predicting improvement. Namely, connections to the dorsolateral and ventrolateral prefrontal cortices (involved in memory encoding and retrieval) and the basal ganglia (important for habits and procedures) were highly predictive, Menon said. These connectivity measures were even more predictive than parameters involving the structures themselves.

"It tells us about the memory systems in which the brain uses to scaffold and build knowledge representations," he said.


Menon cautions against any interpretations of this research as evidence that some people are born with better brains for math than others. It's not clear that the brain attributes measured in the study won't change over time, even within a year, and environmental factors have a huge impact on brain development.

"One has to be really, really cautious about pushing these kinds of findings, and interpreting these findings, in that light," he said.

The model's predictability is stronger than in a purely associational study, Menon said. Researchers used a machine-learning algorithm to test out the predictability of the brain scan model before using it on the 24 children who were placed in tutoring or non-tutoring groups.

But it's currently unclear how this brain data could be used to design different learning strategies for children who are predicted to learn math less easily than others, he said.

"How this plays out for identifying children and figuring out alternate strategies, that’s future work," he said.

Menon also studies music's effects on the brain.

More: This is your brain on Sesame Street

soundoff (292 Responses)
  1. LhdvZisse

    viagra/cialis packs https://asciled.com/ cialis 10mg

    May 2, 2021 at 17:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. FmrfEncox

    10 mg cialis for sale http://cialisee.com/ cialis online australia

    May 3, 2021 at 08:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. LebnEncox

    apollo pharmacy online https://xlnpharmacy.com/ reputable canadian online pharmacies

    May 3, 2021 at 13:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. RebfZisse

    cialis 36 canada http://rcialisgl.com/ – cialis us pharmacy cialis payment paypal

    May 4, 2021 at 02:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. LbsoZisse

    buy cialis online paypal http://ucialisdas.com/ online cialis

    May 5, 2021 at 07:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. FmrfEncox

    viagra cialis trail pack https://cialisee.com/ – cialis dosage recommended brand cialis

    May 5, 2021 at 13:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. dapoxetine

    dapoxetine tablet price in india priligy 60 mg

    May 5, 2021 at 15:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. GtnbCrulk

    how to get viagra https://jokviagra.com/ – viagra dosage by weight can i take 200mg of viagra

    May 5, 2021 at 15:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. LbsoZisse

    canada customs and cialis https://ucialisdas.com/ is it legal to buy cialis online?

    May 6, 2021 at 18:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. JebgEncox

    top online pharmacy https://pharmacylo.com/ dapoxetine

    May 6, 2021 at 21:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. JebgEncox

    women's health https://pharmacylo.com/ online canadian pharmacy coupon

    May 6, 2021 at 23:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. clonidin

    drug chloroquine https://chloroquineorigin.com/ chloroquine tablet

    May 7, 2021 at 06:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. RebfZisse

    cialis onlilne http://rcialisgl.com/ generic cialis sale

    May 7, 2021 at 08:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. AnooEncox

    wer kauft viagra https://llviagra.com/ viagra will help premature ejaculation

    May 7, 2021 at 08:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. BbshMile

    what is the difference between viagra and cialis https://loxviagra.com/ what color is viagra

    May 8, 2021 at 02:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. LebnEncox

    cheap drugs top mail order pharmacies online pharmacies legitimate

    May 8, 2021 at 10:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. GtnbCrulk

    150 mg viagra http://jokviagra.com/ when do you take viagra

    May 8, 2021 at 11:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. AnooEncox

    neovigra viagra https://llviagra.com/ – viagra en gebruik que es y como funciona el viagra

    May 9, 2021 at 18:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. BbshMile

    viagra benefits http://loxviagra.com/ – viagra pill cost all natural viagra

    May 9, 2021 at 20:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. FmrfEncox

    cialis from canada https://cialisee.com/ cialis on line purchase

    May 10, 2021 at 08:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. LebnEncox

    legal canadian pharmacy online https://xlnpharmacy.com/ trusted overseas pharmacies

    May 10, 2021 at 11:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Tenisha Amacher

    Have you ever heard of second life (sl for short). It is basically a video game where you can do anything you want. Second life is literally my second life (pun intended lol). If you want to see more you can see these Second Life authors and blogs


    May 10, 2021 at 17:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. RebfZisse

    cialis without prescriptions uk https://rcialisgl.com/ how can i buy cialis online

    May 11, 2021 at 00:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Brad Gorz

    This was awesome! I would like you to clean up all this spam though


    May 12, 2021 at 02:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. LbsoZisse

    comprar cialis online http://ucialisdas.com/ – canadien pharmacy no prescription cialis where to buy cialis cheap

    May 12, 2021 at 10:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. FmrfEncox

    cialis in las vegas http://cialisee.com/ cialis quick ship

    May 12, 2021 at 15:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. GtnbCrulk

    what do viagra pills look like http://jokviagra.com/ viagra 25mg

    May 13, 2021 at 03:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. LbsoZisse

    genric cialis http://ucialisdas.com/ – cialis with dapoxetine online buy cialis no prescription overnight

    May 14, 2021 at 00:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. AnooEncox

    viagra chewtabs https://llviagra.com/ – cialis better viagra viagra 25 mgs

    May 14, 2021 at 07:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. RebfZisse

    buy cialis from canada https://rcialisgl.com/ canadien pharmacy no prescription cialis

    May 14, 2021 at 13:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. JebgEncox

    Dulcolax Caverta american online pharmacy

    May 14, 2021 at 21:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. JebgEncox

    legitimate online pharmacy usa best online pet pharmacy canada pharmacies online pharmacy

    May 15, 2021 at 00:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. BbshMile

    viagra connect price https://loxviagra.com/ over the counter viagra cvs

    May 15, 2021 at 14:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. GtnbCrulk

    buy viagra online without prescriptions http://jokviagra.com/ women taking viagra

    May 16, 2021 at 00:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. LebnEncox

    ed meds online without doctor prescription best drugstore mascara legit canadian pharmacy

    May 16, 2021 at 06:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. idnplay

    126069 622610These kinds of Search marketing boxes normally realistic, healthy and balanced as a result receive just about every customer service necessary for some product. Link Building Services 579854

    May 16, 2021 at 08:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. brimonidine

    brimonidine tartrate brimonidine tartrate ophthalmic

    May 16, 2021 at 11:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. AnooEncox

    viagra usa pharmacy http://llviagra.com/ viagra internet arnaque

    May 16, 2021 at 12:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Robin Gustafson

    I don't know about you guys but I love airplanes. I have a friend in highschool that loved airplanes, so here are some airplane related stuff I don't know about you guys but I love airplanes. I had a friend in highschool that loved airplanes, so here are some airplane related stuff https://www.airlinereporter.com/2010/03/qa-why-dont-airlines-put-screens-in-engines-to-stop-birds-from-being-sucked-in/


    May 16, 2021 at 16:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. RebfZisse

    cialis 10mg ireland https://rcialisgl.com/ – buy brand name cialis cialis black is it safe

    May 17, 2021 at 03:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. FmrfEncox

    cheapest generic cialis https://cialisee.com/ – pictures of penis on cialis cialis black reviews

    May 17, 2021 at 03:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Nolan Aslett

    Have you ever heard of second life (sl for short). It is essentially a game where you can do anything you want. sl is literally my second life (pun intended lol). If you would like to see more you can see these Second Life articles and blogs


    May 17, 2021 at 06:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. LebnEncox

    canadapharmacyonline https://xlnpharmacy.com/ italian pharmacy online

    May 17, 2021 at 15:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. BbshMile

    price of generic viagra http://loxviagra.com/ what happens when a woman takes male viagra

    May 17, 2021 at 16:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. diamond painting

    678700 269592Couldn?t be developed any much better. Reading this post reminds me of my old room mate! He always kept talking about this. I will forward this report to him. Pretty certain he will possess a excellent read. Thanks for sharing! 846530

    May 17, 2021 at 17:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Kortney Monjure

    I don't know about you guys but I infatuated with airplanes. I had a friend in highschool that loves airplanes, so here are some airplane related stuff I don't know about you guys but I love airplanes. I had a friend in highschool that loved airplanes, so here are some airplane related stuff https://www.airlinereporter.com/2010/12/airline-livery-of-the-week-donavia-airlines-old-baby-aeroflot/


    May 17, 2021 at 22:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. LbsoZisse

    kГ¶pГ¤ cialis https://ucialisdas.com/ – order cialis cialis for daily use disount

    May 18, 2021 at 09:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Sid Kubecka

    I don't know about you people but I infatuated with airplanes. I have a friend in highschool that loves airplanes, so here are some airplane related stuff I don't know about you guys but I love airplanes. I had a friend in highschool that loved airplanes, so here are some airplane related stuff https://www.airlinereporter.com/2010/07/how-a-billionaire-throws-a-party-virgin-americas-toronto-party/


    May 19, 2021 at 03:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. forex signals

    450975 584350I like this website quite considerably, Its a extremely good position to read and receive info . 587369

    May 19, 2021 at 05:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. FmrfEncox

    walmart pharmacy cialis price http://cialisee.com/ cialis 40mg

    May 19, 2021 at 13:34 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6

Leave a Reply to EncoxHtf


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.