Thursday, March 14, 2013

Pi Day! How Does the #Brain process #Math? #piday

It is 3:14 on 3/14 :)

Happy Pi Day to all of you that either love or hate math.

It's interesting how Pi is becoming an increasingly precise number as it has been calculated to over trillion digits past its decimal point. Yet, we usually refer to it as an approximation of 3.141509. Pi is the calculation of the circumference of a circle divided by the diameter.

So in doing my research for Pi Day, it was cool to learn that math isn't processed using one section of our brain but it depended on the type of calculation we are doing. I represented that in my drawing as having the symbol of Pi grow from these distinctive regions of the brain colored in yellow and red within a circle, of course.

If seeking a precise number like what does 5 x 7 =, then it is our left frontal lobe (yellow area) takes charge as the equation requires verbal representation of numbers. Then 5 x 7 = becomes five times seven equals. As for something like learning the multiplication table, we just recite that to memory.

It's different when you're looking more for a range. For example, if I add 23 apples to this pile of 50 apples, would the number of apples be closer to 70 or 90. Parietal Lobe, colored in red (more specifically the inferior parietal cortex) has a role in understanding space and used for reasoning. So while the addition of apples will make a bigger pile, it wouldn't be as large as 90 apples and it would be closer to 70.

Now treat yourself to some pie! Just try to avoid cutting it into fractions.

Michelle Hunter

Contemporary Artist
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Butterworth, Brian,"A Head for Figures," Science Magazine, May 7 1999
Peterson, Ivers,"MathTrek: Brainy Figuring," Science News

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