The mathematical brain refers to an inborn ability that humans have that allows them to map numbers into their brains. In other words, our brains are set up from birth to understand numbers and number patterns.
When we are asked to compare two numbers, we change those numbers into pieces of lines. Then we compare the length of each piece, so that we can decide which number is larger.
Scientists learned about the mathematical brain by studying patients who had suffered brain injuries.
Acalculia is a loss of the ability to calculate and solve mathematical problems.
This man was able to decide which of two numbers was bigger or smaller even though he could not perform mathematical calculations. He did this by comparing the numbers.
Earlier researchers had noted that patients with acalculia usually had other problems too. For example, some confused directions; some could not name the fingers of their hands; and some could not write. All these patients had injuries to the same part of the brain--the inferior parietal cortex of the left hemisphere.
The inferior parietal cortex in the left hemisphere of the brain seems to be involved in simple number processing.
No. The scientists only know which part of the brain processes numbers, but they do not know how that part of the brain does it.
When we go to school and learn more complex math, the mental number line in our brain gets more developed. At this point, other parts of the brain such as the basal ganglia in the left hemisphere become involved along with the inferior parietal cortex.
PET scans of normal brains have shown that there is usually activity in the inferior parietal cortex when people are processing numbers and that when someone is doing multiplication, there is a lot of activity in the left basal ganglia.