Mathematical problem solving: behavioral and neuroimaging studies
The current study has three components: (a) a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) meta-analyses of past literature on mathematical operations; (b) a behav- ioral study to validate a math protocol with parametric changes in the difficulty of math problems that use addition, subtraction, multiplication and division; and (c) an fMRI study that examines the brain correlates of mathematical operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division) in relation to subjective effort.
This project investigated for the first time the Right-Left-Right hypothesis using func- tional brain indices related to solving addition, subtraction, multiplication and divi- sion problems. The classic ideas of hemispheric dominance (i.e., visual-spatial abilities in the right hemisphere, verbal ones in the left hemisphere) cannot explain the study’s findings as the material provided were all numerical. We adopt a hypothesis derived from cognitive development to predict that hemispheric involvement stems from an interaction between an individual’s mental-attentional capacity and the mental demand of the task [Pascual-Leone, 1987; Arsalidou, Pascual-Leone, Johnson, 2010]. To test this hypothesis, we adopted a parametric design with several levels of difficulty (easy, within the individual’s competence level and above the individual’s competence level). Our results provide new insights on the brain correlates of mathematical problem solving as a function of operation and difficulty.