In a recent study of the brain, researchers discovered a link between symmetry and problem solving for children.
Children are more likely to understand difficult algebra concepts if they can make sense of it using symmetry. Before studying algebra, children learn that there are negative numbers that are smaller than zero, and positive numbers greater than zero which can be mixed in an equation. Stanford University researchers have developed a visual way to understand the concept, utilizing the brain’s ability to recognize symmetry.
The technique is pretty simple. When the researchers showed fourth graders that a negative number is the same distance from zero on a number line as the corresponding positive number, the students’ ability to solve problems improved.
Study co-author and dean of the Stanford Graduate School of Education commented, “Most neuroscience tries to explain the effects of existing treatments. Ours is one of the few cases where neuroscience actually came up with a new way to teach.”