Mathematics and the Bilingual Brain


Language is an integral part of mathematics. Nicole Y.Y. Wicha, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology at University of Texas at San Antonio, and her team of researchers are currently investigating the effects of bilingualism on the ability to perform basic mathematical operations. More specifically, she is examining whether it is the native or spoken language that is used when evaluating multiplication problems. Her original findings supported previous hypotheses that basic math “was hard-wired in the brain in the language in which it was learned.” However, further analysis showed that this was not the case. In fact, data supported that mathematic operations were performed quicker in the language participants were immersed in and spoke in their daily lives. The findings are significant because it helps show that bilingual children are not disadvantaged in comparison to their monolingual counterparts when learning mathematics in school.

Original article:

Another interesting example of how bilingualism affects basic mathematics is with the simple task of counting. Blogger Stephen Greene is raising a bilingual family in Brazil. Mr. T (taken to be his young son) is learning to count in both English and Portuguese. What Greene has found is that Mr. T does not confuse numbers in English with those in Portuguese and vice versa. This could be the first sign that he is compartmentalizing the two languages in his brain.

Original article:

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