# No such thing as a maths brain

Hi! I'm David, the coordinator of the Maths Learning Centre (MLC) here at the University of Adelaide, and I want to tell you something important:

**There is no such thing as a maths brain.**

When it comes up in conversation that my job is to help people learn and use maths in their coursework, one really common response is for people to say "I don't have a maths brain". I want to tell you right now two really important things.

First, even if there were such a thing as a maths brain, and even if you didn't have one, I refuse to give up on you. If you meet maths in any way big or small in your coursework here at the Uni of Adelaide, and you come to us at the MLC to talk about it, then we will stick with you until you are confident with it.

Second, there really is no such thing as a maths brain. The people who are good at maths do not have a special part of their brain that makes them somehow automatically good at maths. No, their brains are just like everyone else's, and they are just using an ordinary brain to do their maths. What this means is that everyone else with their ordinary brains can also learn maths!

The main thing that human brains do that helps people learn anything, including maths, is to notice how things are similar and how things are different. Biologists do this when they classify animals into categories like mammal, bird, insect and so on. Poets do this when they line up ideas next to each other in metaphor and simile, and they also do it when they think about the merits of using a specific form like a sonnet or instead writing something more freeform. Historians do it when they compare historical events from different countries in different time periods. And mathematicians do it when they notice how multiplying by 2 then dividing by 3 produces the same result as dividing by 3 then multiplying by 2. The most important brain skill you can use to get good at maths is to constantly ask yourself how things are the same and how they are different, which you do all the time whenever you learn anything else anyway.

The second thing that human brains do that helps people learn anything, including maths, is to get used to things through low-stakes practice. The people who are good at maths often got that way by spending time with maths outside of class when they didn't have to because they enjoyed it. They were doing maths just because it appealed to them, and so their brain got used to the feeling of doing maths without stress. You can do the same. Go towards the maths when it's not important, so that your brain can get used to it and so be able to do it when it is important.

One way to do that is to do puzzles and play games and do them together with friendly people. This is one of the reasons the MLC runs our weekly art/puzzle/game sessions called One Hundred Factorial. It's a time when anyone can join in with mathematical thinking in a playful and friendly setting without the fear of being assessed or judged.

So please take heart that there is no such thing as a maths brain, and if you want to use your brain to do maths, then drop into the MLC or join in with One Hundred Factorial to figure out how.