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May 1, 2020
Vol. 77
No. 8

Research Alert / Research on Gender Differences in Math, and How Screen Time Alters Brains

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Trends and Ideas on Learning and the Brain

Social-emotional learning
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No Gender Differences in Math Learning, Brain Scans Find

Despite stereotypes to the contrary, there's new evidence that boys and girls start out with nearly identical brain activity and potential related to math. A study in the journal Science of Learning is the first neuroimaging study to evaluate biological gender differences in the math aptitude of young children.
Jessica Cantlon of Carnegie Mellon University led a team of researchers that analyzed the functional MRI (fMRI) scans of 104 children, ages 3 to 10, as they watched math education videos. The videos included clips from Sesame Street and covered basic math skills like counting and addition. While viewing the videos, the children showed activity in the intraparietal sulci, an area of the brain connected to mathematical processing.
Across all analyses, researchers found no gender differences in neural responses. "Boys and girls are using their brains in the same way when they are thinking about math and the same brain regions are important for math development in all children," said researcher Alyssa Kersey.
—Sarah McKibben
Source: Kersey, A., Csummita, K. D., & Cantlon, J. F. (2019). Gender similarities in the brain during mathematics development. Science of Learning, 4(19).

Excessive Screen Time Alters Preschoolers' Brains

When it comes to young children, too much screen time is a bad thing. In a recent study, researchers from Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center found that, among preschoolers ages 3 to 5, screen use greater than recommended by American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) resulted in "lower microstructural integrity of white matter tracts in parts of the brain that support language and literacy skills." Although limited in scope, the findings align with previous studies showing harmful effects of screen time on young children's language abilities.
Monitoring kids' screen time might be a no-brainer: For children ages 2 to 5, AAP recommends limiting screen use to one hour per day of high-quality, coviewed programming.
—Sarah McKibben
Source: Hutton, J. S., Dudley, J., Horowitz-Kraus, T., et al. (2019, November 4). Associations between screen-based media use and brain white matter integrity in preschool-aged children. JAMA Pediatrics, 174(1).

Sarah McKibben is the director of digital and editorial content for ASCD.

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