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CCN Brown Bag Series

Wednesday, February 20, 2019,

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  • Location: Wilson Hall • 111 21St Ave S • Nashville, TN 37240
  • Room: 115

Macarena Suarez Pellicioni, PhD

Department of Psychology & Human Development (Booth Lab)

Vanderbilt University

Neurocognitive mechanisms supporting successful math performance and math improvement in children

Math competency is crucial for success in modern society. My recent research has focused on studying the role of verbal and quantity neuro-cognitive mechanisms in driving children’s gains in symbolic math skill and the role that attitudinal factors play in the engagement of those mechanisms. I have conducted a series of studies using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) that examine solving multiplication and subtraction arithmetic problems in 9- to 11-year-old children. In the first study, I will show that symbolic math plays an important role in refining quantity mechanisms, such as the Approximate Number System (ANS), but that the ANS does not appear to scaffold the acquisition of symbolic math. In the second study, I will show that the quality of verbal phonological representations, but not access to those representations, drives gains in some operations over time. Finally, in the third study, I will show that the engagement of verbal access mechanisms is enhanced in lower skill children who have a positive attitude towards math. Altogether, this research indicates that in children around 10 years old, having well defined representations of arithmetic facts in long-term memory seems to be an important factor in explaining math achievement. In the end of the talk, I will discuss a framework for future directions looking into the role of these neuro-cognitive mechanisms in explaining the relationship between attitudes, anxiety, and achievement in math.