George Lucas Educational Foundation

Study: The Neuroscience Behind Exercise and Math Ability

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Children who exercise regularly also tend to do better in math. Until now, little research existed to explain this relationship, but a team of scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has made a major discovery: aerobic fitness results in a thinner layer of gray matter in the brains of young children. This difference in brain structure, they propose, leads to better cognitive control and working memory, key skills related to math ability.

What about reading? The researchers found no correlation between fitness and reading, but they're hoping that future studies can shed more light on the subject.

Research Cited: Chaddock-Heyman, L., Erickson, K. I., Kienzler, C., King, M., Pontifex, M. B., Raine, L. B., Hillman, C. H., & Kramer, A. F. (2015). The Role of Aerobic Fitness in Cortical Thickness and Mathematics Achievement in Preadolescent Children. PloS one, 10(8), e0134115.

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Youki Terada's picture
Youki Terada
Research and Standards Editor

Thanks for sharing. The study uses an independent t-test to isolate and analyze variables such as gender and socioeconomic status, and given that it's published in a highly-cited, peer-reviewed journal, it's unlikely that the researchers didn't account for gender differences.

Independent T-Test for Two Samples

The independent t-test, also called the two sample t-test or student's t-test, is an inferential statistical test that determines whether there is a statistically significant difference between the means in two unrelated groups.

Unrelated groups, also called unpaired groups or independent groups, are groups in which the cases in each group are different. Often we are investigating differences in individuals, which means that when comparing two groups, an individual in one group cannot also be a member of the other group and vice versa. An example would be gender - an individual would have to be classified as either male or female - not both.

Hope that clears things up.

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