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Math Biotech Education

About Half of Kids' Learning Ability Is In Their DNA 227

Taco Cowboy writes with this story about new research that finds a strong genetic component to a child's ability in math and reading. "You may think you're better at reading than you are at math (or vice versa), but new research suggests you're probably equally good (or bad) at both. The reason: The genes that determine a person's ability to tackle one subject influence their aptitude at the other, accounting for about half of a person's overall ability. The study, published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, used nearly 1,500 pairs of 12-year-old twins to tease apart the effects of genetic inheritance and environmental variables on math and reading ability. The researchers administered a set of math and verbal tests to the children and then compared the performance of different sets of twins. They found that the twins' scores — no matter if they were high or low — were twice as similar among pairs of identical twins as among pairs of fraternal twins. The results indicated that approximately half of the children's math and reading ability stemmed from their genetic makeup.

A complementary analysis of unrelated kids corroborated this conclusion — strangers with equivalent academic abilities shared genetic similarities. What's more, the genes responsible for math and reading ability appear to be numerous and interconnected, not specifically targeted toward one set of skills. These so-called 'generalist genes' act in concert to determine a child's aptitude across multiple disciplines. The finding that one's propensities for math and reading go hand in hand may come as a surprise to many, but it shouldn't. People often feel that they possess skills in only one area simply because they perform slightly worse in the other."
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About Half of Kids' Learning Ability Is In Their DNA

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  • by EmperorOfCanada ( 1332175 ) on Monday August 11, 2014 @10:13AM (#47646945)
    In my many years of computer consulting, I have ended up teaching many people various computer/math skills. I have no doubt that some people simply come under the category of thick headed. I will explain something simple 8 different ways and they just don't get it. While other people might not have a knack for things computery they only need to be shown something once.

    The same with math. For some reason I have ended up teaching people elements of math. Some people I have shown how to calculate percentages multiple times, while others I will show something far more complex such as how to calculate a mortgage payment and it sticks. Both groups will have had roughly similar math educations.

    I wonder if this is where some people choke when learning to program. There are many concepts in programming that must be mastered. There is no wiggle room with each concept such as ifs, whiles, switches, etc. You either get it or you don't, and with so many to learn they must be gotten quickly in a typical intro to programming course. Again I have helped people with their programming homework and while some would instantly absorb what I was saying there were groups to whom I might as well have been just making up words.

    Maybe I am a lousy teacher but lets say I am teaching someone to do the local sales tax (15%) and I tell them to do 1 x 1.15 to get the total on a calculator. I might even explain that the 1 represents the original price and the .15 is the tax and together they get the total. But I also just say, do 1.15 and it will just work. Write it on the calculator if needed. Easy Peasy.
  • Re:Meaning (Score:4, Informative)

    by stdarg ( 456557 ) on Monday August 11, 2014 @11:37AM (#47647753)

    Teach him to read numbers well, then start looking for things with numbers. I'm looking at my car registration renewal letter and it has dollar figures, dates, descriptions, rates ("tax rate per $100 value"), tabular data, etc. You can make math problems out of these, like "what is the total of city and county tax?" that will require him to read words like "city" and "county" in the table.

    I don't know how serious of a reading problem your son has, but if he's clearly behind a 1st grade class I'm guessing he's having trouble even reading words aloud. Even short things like this letter might help him get started.

    Of course if you just mean he's behind a little bit because he isn't interested in reading, but knows the fundamentals, that's a different matter.

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