WASHINGTON: Parents, take note! Counting on fingers may make your kids smarter, suggests a new study which found that children who have better perception of their hands tend to be more skilled at math.
Finger perception – the ability to distinguish, name, or recognise the fingers – is associated with math skill and even when people are not manually ticking off numbers, areas of the brain associated with fingers are still activated, researchers said.
In order to analyse how the mind works while performing arithmetic, Ilaria Berteletti from Gallaudet University in the US and colleagues scanned the brains of 39 children between ages eight and 13 while they mentally subtracted and multiplied single-digit numbers.
The scans showed two regions of the brain associated with fingers – the somatosensory area, which responds to sensations such as pressure, pain or heat and the motor area, which controls movement.
Both were active during subtraction, even though the children did not use their fingers to arrive at the answers.
There was no similar brain activity during multiplication, which the researchers interpreted as a reflection of how children learn to subtract versus how they learn to multiply, ‘The Wall Street Journal’ reported.
“You probably learned subtraction using your fingers.
Multiplication was probably presented verbally and with rote memorisation. For us, it is evidence that the two types of operations rely on different networks,” Berteletti said.
Researchers are not sure whether finger recognition can make children better at math or using fingers for math improves recognition.
However, they are sure that children who have better finger perception tend to be more skilled at mathematics.