June 28, 2013
New research by Stanford researcher Vinod Menon , shows for the first ime that measures of brain structure and connectivity predict how much a
child’s mathematical problem solving ability improves with math tutoring.
The study was conducted by Menon,
director, Stanford Cognitive and Systems
Neuroscience Laboratory. The lab is a multidisciplinary brain research group in the
Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral
Sciences at Stanford’s School of Medicine.
Menon’s study was published last month
in the Proceedings of the National Academy
“My colleagues and I investigated the
brain predictors of individual outcomes to
one-on-one math tutoring in 24 children
aged 8-9 years with different levels of
mathematical abilities,” Menon told India
He said the children went through a set of
standardized IQ, math and reading ability
tests, followed by MRI scans before they
took part in an eight-week tutoring pro-
gram that emphasized conceptual and pro-
cedural knowledge of math.
The researchers found that children with
larger gray matter volume in three brain
structures tended to get more benefit from
math tutoring. The best predictor was the
size of the hippocampus, a structure traditionally deemed vital to memory and learning.
“We observed improvements in the
speed, accuracy and efficiency of math performance after tutoring, with some children improving significantly more than
others,” Menon said.
He said that while none of the standardized test scores predicted improvements in
math performance in response to tutoring,
the structure and connectivity of the hippocampus did.
“Our findings suggest that math tutoring
outcomes can be best predicted by brain
measures, and may help explain why some
children benefit more from math tutoring
than others,” Menon said.
The tutoring program combined conceptual instruction with speeded-up retrieval
of math facts. The tutoring involved 15–20
hours of training, conducted over 8–9
weeks, and consisted of 22 lessons of
Menon believes this line of research will
help provide a better understanding of
brain mechanisms underlying learning in
children and adults.
“Our work may help to identify children
who require different approaches or more
intensive tutoring,” he said. “(It) may also
lead to development of better learning par-
adigms, particularly for children with
Menon, who came to Stanford University
as a Sinclair Foundation Research Fellow
in 1995, is an alumnus of the Indian
Institute of Technology, the University of
Texas at Austin and the University of
In California, play looks
at complexities of India’s
“Iam a cynic, I don’t believe (throughout) his- tory people have selflessly fought for any- thing,” said Sujit Saraf, co-founder of the
Silicon Valley based theater group Naatak whose
play, Vande Mataram, was staged at the Tabard theater in San Jose, California, June 15.
Saraf’s 90-minute play shows how India’s freedom
movement led by Mahatma Gandhi impacts the
The cast of the play; inset, Sujit Saraf