Friday, December 2, 2011

Language vs. Math

After reading Life's Extremes: Math vs. Language from LiveScience, it sort of made me wish I'd taken the SAT test. The article states:
Most people would agree they are better at verbal or math subjects in school, as grades usually do attest. Highly intelligent individuals often do well in both subjects... while less intelligent people can struggle. But a minority of us excels in the language department and bombs at mathematics, or vice versa.
The article also included the graphic below:

It then goes on to talk about various types of disorders that can effect reading or math comprehension, like dyslexia or discalcula. What it failed to do was address the major differences in the numbers above.

Of 1.5  million SAT test-takers in 2010:
  • 154 students scored between 700-800* in math, while scoring 200-300 in critical reading.
  • 5 students scored between 700-800* in critical reading, while scoring 200-300 in math.
      *Out of a possible 800

That's a big difference in people who excel at math vs. language. The only explanation the article offers, brief and incomprehensive as it is, is that different parts of the brain are used for different functions. That doesn't explain anything!

I took the ACT, so I can't compare my score. I think I would have fallen into the reading comprehension category displayed to the left. My English score was a few points shy of perfect and my math score just barely squeaked by for the lowest range of average.

But why? Math is just another form of language and communication. And it should be easier, because there can't really be a double-meaning to numbers in the same way words can have different definitions.

The closest this article came to giving a real answer was:
Of course, environment and experience play a major role...Parents who have a lot of books around the house might encourage a child to get more into reading and writing, whereas math games promote doing sums instead.
My mom has always been a bookworm and I was reading some pretty complicated materials at a fairly young age.But I didn't try to learn to be advanced at reading comprehension, it just came to me naturally. At the same time I tried desperately to learn to be better at math.

Nothing really helped. Contrary to what the article says is the key to mastery, practice did not make perfect. Sometimes I think I'm lucky I can balance my checkbook. I can tell you how to rearrange a sentence so it doesn't end with a preposition without a second thought, but it takes serious concentration to multiply two single-digit numbers.

After searching,  I couldn't find an answer as to why so few people excel at reading comprehension and suck at math compared to how many people are math-knowledge-rich and reading-ability-poor. But I did empathize with this story about Language People vs. Math People. Similar types of verbal scenarios have happened in my life!

If someone reading this knows the reason, kindly leave a link to the answer in the comments below. I am incredibly curious to know.

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