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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 Joe Gillian ( 3683399 ) on Monday August 11, 2014 @10:06AM (#47646855)

    What I'm wondering is what implications this will have for standardized tests. Most of the tests assume that everyone is on the same playing field - but if this is true, and genetics play a role equal to 50% of a student's learning ability, this would essentially mean that some students will intrinsically perform better than their peers simply because they have the genes and other people don't.

    I'm willing to bet that the second they come up with a test for these genes, there will be lawsuits by school districts who lose funding over standardized tests, claiming that they are at an unfair disadvantage because their students simply don't have the genetic makeup to score well on the tests.

  • Anecdotal (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Monday August 11, 2014 @10:24AM (#47647051)

    It's just anecdotal evidence, but my kids Adopted from Africa... he's smart but in regards to entirely different things than I am. I'm your typical computer guy... terrible with people but good with math, bad at spelling and grammar. He's totally outgoing, a natural leader. I take him to the park and he's organizing group activities with all the kids within minutes. It's truly amazing. I couldn't do that now, as an adult! He's 6, and already reading at a level I wasn't at until middle school. So genetics are definitely a factor.

    That being said, I'm intensely interested in the mechanics of just about everything. How do you build a fence? How does a lawn mower work? I've passed this curiosity on to my son. So nurture is a factor to.

    I've learned more about life by adopting than just about any other thing I've ever done in my life. I highly recommend it, you'll get more out of the venture than you ever had to put in.

The best book on programming for the layman is "Alice in Wonderland"; but that's because it's the best book on anything for the layman.