[MATHLINK] MLCS Online November 19, 2020

Jo-Anne LeFevre joanne.lefevre at gmail.com
Wed Nov 18 19:40:18 CST 2020

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How environment shapes the mathematical brain: Influences of socioeconomic status, parental behaviors, and education

Dear MCLS Community,
Please join us for our symposium tomorrow, November 19 at 9am EST//2pm GMT on “How environment shapes the mathematical brain: Influences of socioeconomic status, parental behaviors, and education” (abstract below). We will hear presentations from Teresa Iuculano, (Laboratory for the Psychology of Child Development and Education, CNRS & Université de Paris, France), Ece Demir-Lira (Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, University of Iowa, USA), Cléa Girard, Lyon Neuroscience Research Center, University of Lyon, France), and Merel Declercq (KU Leuven, Belgium). The link to join is: https://pitt.zoom.us/j/98288752314 <https://the-mcls.us20.list-manage.com/track/click?u=52a664da881817eed812437d0&id=43205c2d35&e=0fb4467019>, password MCLS2020.
As a reminder, there will be no meeting next week, but we look forward to seeing you all for our last three symposia of the year!
Thursday, December 3  <>Fraction Interventions from Lab to Classroom
Friday, December 11  <>Explaining the relationship between working memory resp. related cognitive skills and mathematical learning
Thursday, December 17 <> The roles of different domain-general and domain-specific skills in children’s mathematical competence
See you tomorrow!
The MCLS Training Board
Children’s math development is characterized by marked individual differences that impact their future personal and professional life. Because children are exposed to vastly different numeracy experiences in and out of school, environmental influences may critically contribute to these differences. For example, studies have found that math skills depend on socio-economic status (SES), quality and frequency of math activities and resources provided by parents at home (i.e., the home numeracy environment), as well as teaching methods in the classroom. Yet, very little is known about the way these environmental factors may affect the neural circuits supporting math learning in children. This symposium will fill this gap by bringing together four researchers at different stages of their careers (2 PhD students and 2 Assistant Professors) and from different countries (France, Belgium, and USA) whose work relates to environmental influences on the developing math brain. The presentations will feature a unique combination of studies making use of different neuroimaging methods – functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) – to study children from preschool to elementary school. Collectively, this research seeks to understand how brain circuits supporting math learning are affected by SES, home numeracy environment, and educational instructions. It also aims to explore how environment-related neural changes may affect math learning and whether these findings may pave the way for future interventions.
Teresa Iuculano will present an fMRI study investigating the impact of SES on the neural mechanisms supporting math problem-solving in 7- to 9-year-olds. Preliminary results indicate that, compared to higher-SES peers, low-SES children showed hypo-activations in the medial temporal lobe, the intraparietal sulcus (IPS) and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Low-SES children were also characterized by lower math skills and greater math anxiety than higher-SES peers. Ece Demir-Lira will describe fNIRS work exploring the neural mechanisms that underlie the relation between SES and math performance in younger children (4-5 years old). The results will show whether brain regions supporting non-symbolic number processing differ in children from different SES backgrounds. They will also examine whether numeracy interactions between parents and children account for SES-related differences in the brain. Cléa Girard will present further fMRI evidence that SES disparities are associated with differences in the neural processing of symbolic quantities in the IPS of 8-year-olds, over and above differences in parents’ and children’s arithmetic skills. The results also show that, in addition to SES, quality of the home numeracy environment relates to the IPS processing of non-symbolic quantities. Finally, Merel Declercq will describe a training study exploring how an educational intervention may change the brain circuits underlying arithmetic processing. The study measured fMRI activity before and after 10-year-olds learned to retrieve double-digit multiplication problems. Results indicate that multiplication training was associated with an increase in accuracy for trained problems and a decrease in IPS activity, suggesting a decrease in the use of procedural strategies. Together, these presentations will demonstrate how neuroimaging may shed light on the way environmental factors interact with the neural mechanisms supporting math learning in children.
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