I love neuroscience and more precisely the possibilities for education and human development that are created by increasing our understanding of how our brains work. Stanislas Dehaene is a neuroscience researcher in France specifically studying how we think mathematically. This New Yorker article has some interesting ideas for anyone teaching mathematics to children.
Here is a particularly exciting excerpt to whet your appetite…
And if evolution has equipped us with one way of representing number, embodied in the primitive number sense, culture furnishes two more: numerals and number words. These three modes of thinking about number, Dehaene believes, correspond to distinct areas of the brain. The number sense is lodged in the parietal lobe, the part of the brain that relates to space and location; numerals are dealt with by the visual areas; and number words are processed by the language areas.
For Dehaene, numerical thought is only the beginning of this quest. Recently, he has been pondering how the philosophical problem of consciousness might be approached by the methods of empirical science. Experiments involving subliminal “number priming” show that much of what our mind does with numbers is unconscious, a finding that has led Dehaene to wonder why some mental activity crosses the threshold of awareness and some doesn’t. Collaborating with a couple of colleagues, Dehaene has explored the neural basis of what is known as the “global workspace” theory of consciousness, which has elicited keen interest among philosophers. In his version of the theory, information becomes conscious when certain “workspace” neurons broadcast it to many areas of the brain at once, making it simultaneously available for, say, language, memory, perceptual categorization, action-planning, and so on.
And here is a sample of the type of brain scans scientists are now able to perform