The relation between math and grammar

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Pontiac Perspective  Peter J. Gauthier

The stores are filled with back-to-school supplies. The government, interested private sector pundits, and educational specialists have provided a list of      priorities to give students skills necessary for            economic success.

Pontiac Perspective  Peter J. Gauthier

The stores are filled with back-to-school supplies. The government, interested private sector pundits, and educational specialists have provided a list of      priorities to give students skills necessary for            economic success.
First on this list is mathematics, necessary for all science, technology and finance. Next is computing – many teachers insist that all assignments be done with a word processor. Science and technology, including the trades are deemed essential for employment in today’s workplace and entrepreneurial and financial skills are strong recommendations as are digital communication skills; some civics and history are added to complete the list. Correct grammar, spelling and vocabulary are considered of secondary importance. All word processors will check grammar and spelling to some extent. However, there is a        problem with this list in that mathematics causes the most grief and difficulty for students. But mathematics is considered the most rational, and logical of all studies so why is it the cause of so much grief?
Modern neuroscience and cognitive studies have determined the frontal lobe of our brain is where reasoning takes place. Most of the remainder of the brain is concerned with intuitive, automatic tasks but thinking rationally requires memory and sequential processing.
The frontal lobe evolved to handle language, that is, vocabulary and grammar, which is unique to humans. It allows for the expression of abstract ideas and thoughts such as extended time, justice, society and mathematics. The relevance to mathematical thought is thus grammar and vocabulary; grammar gives rules for communicating abstract word         patterns in a meaningful manner. Mathematics is concerned with communicating patterns of relationships that are logical and meaningful, thus language skills and mathematics are closely related in terms of brain functions.
This would suggest that failure in mathematics relates directly to weak language skills. An educational system that does not     recognize the connection between mathematics and language as logical, rational, and related subjects should be revised. However, grammar and vocabulary are not considered logical subjects in the way mathematics is. For example, why is the plural of mouse “mice,” while the plural of house “houses”? There seems to be more exceptions than rules in grammar while mathematics is strictly rule bound. The real issue is the        imagination. Correct grammar and good vocabulary develop the imagination – the essential ingredient to discovering and understanding mathematical   patterns and processes.
Our educational system does not have to revert to the good old days of rote memorization without understanding but it must recognize the close relationship between grammar and abstract thought needed for subjects such as mathematics.