Date: 06 Mar 2014

BRAIN ACTIVITY ASSOCIATED WITH TRANSLATION BETWEEN GRAPHICAL AND SYMBOLIC REPRESENTATIONS OF FUNCTIONS IN GENERALLY GIFTED AND EXCELLING IN MATHEMATICS ADOLESCENTS

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Abstract

In this study, we examine the impact and the interplay of general giftedness (G) and excellence in mathematics (EM) on high school students’ mathematical performance associated with translations from graphical to symbolic representations of functions, as reflected in cortical electrical activity (by means of ERP—event-related potentials—methodology). We report on findings of comparative data analysis based on 75 right-handed male high school students (16 – 18 years old) divided into four research groups designed by a combination of EM and G factors. Effects of EM factor appeared at the behavioral and electrophysiological levels. The fifth group of participants included 9 students with extraordinary mathematical abilities (S-MG: super mathematically gifted). We found that in EM participants, the G factor has no impact on the performance associated with translation between representations of the functions. The highest overall electrical activity is found in excelling in mathematics students who are not identified as generally gifted (NG-EM students). This increased electrical activity can be an indicator of increased cognitive load in this group of students. We identified accumulative and unique characteristics of S-MG at the behavioral and electrophysiological levels. We explain the findings by the nature of the tasks used in the study. We argue that a combination of the ERP techniques along with more traditional educational research methods enables obtaining reliable measures on the mental processing involved in learning mathematics and mathematical problem solving.