Who benefits from Math Tutoring? An MRI scan has the answer...

In a journal article recently published, research shows that MRI can predict the efficacy of math tutoring on students published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences entitled "Neural predictors of individual differences in response to math tutoring in primary-grade school children?".

Researchers found an association with pre-tutoring increased hippocampal volume along with tracts to other surrounding brain structures better predicts a student's amount of improvement with tutoring lessons. The hippocampus is involved in the functioning of various types of memory. Commonly accepted characteristics of memory skills, previous math skills, prior math performance, or intelligent quotient (IQ) did not predict as well as fMRI. Also correlated were tracts connect to the pre-frontal cortex, which controls areas of planning, attention, and memory.

fMRI scanning is a magnetic resonance based imaging for the brain which shows functional activity in the brain. Researchers did also show that tutoring in students that benefitted from tutoring also showed positive functional and structural changes in these brain scans. These were shown by increased ability in problem solving with increased speed and accuracy of performing math questions.

These findings highlight to me that students need not be 'good at math' to benefit from tutoring. Instead, based on my observations, I believe that motivated children who can 'store' the products of these lessons benefit the most. Often, I believe homework as a result, is key in maintaining these neural structures and their functioning. Lastly, what I find most interesting is that tutoring can be a permanently beneficial phenomenon, inducing actual physical changes that can be seen in the brain.

The link to the study:


Jim L.

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