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2019-07-01  |  By the numbers – Junior research group Neuro-cognitive Plasticity joins conference on mathematical cognition
20190701 NG Moeller MCLS

We are confronted by numbers and math on a daily basis. Yet our knowledge of how people process figures is still emerging. This growing knowledge was explored by nearly 250 scientists at the Mathematical Cognition and Learning Society (MCLS) conference in Ottawa, Canada from June 16 to 18.

Dr. Julia Bahnmüller, Roberta Barrocas and Silke Bieck from the IWM also travelled overseas to present the work of the junior research group Neuro-cognitive Plasticity. The scientists have been researching numerical cognition for years with particular interest being paid to the neural correlates of number processing as well as its development during childhood. In Ottawa, Dr. Julia Bahnmüller introduced three of her projects. Among other things, she presented a study on number word inversion ("42" in Germany literally translates as "two-forty" and not as "forty-two"). She addressed the question of how the strategy of writing down the unit digit before the decade digit in multi-digit numbers influences arithmetic performance in children. Junior scientist Roberta Barrocas discussed, whether counting with fingers promotes numerical learning in children – a topic which especially targeted teachers who were invited to the conference as well.  Silke Bieck, a LEAD PhD student and associate at the IWM, put up a poster to debate the design of her study on learning fractions. In the study, she will identify the neural correlates of fraction arithmetic and their commonalities with and differences from whole number arithmetic.

All in all, the IWM experts considered the mission of the MCLS – to promote the communication of scientific research on mathematical cognition and learning – successful: "Almost all of the lectures were relevant to the content of our work at the IWM and therefore very inspiring," said Julia Bahnmüller after the conference.

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