Keith Devlin is a highly entertaining mathematician and may be known to some of you as The Math Guy on NPR’s Weekend Edition. He is also the Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Language and Information at Stanford University, has written several books, and writes Devlin’s Angle for the MAA Online.

I was quite taken with his article, What does “DOING MATH” mean?. It is well worth reading both as an entertaining and informative piece, and particularly for the “nine mental capacities” Devlin identifies.

1 – number sense
2 – numerical ability
3- spatial-reasoning ability
4 – sense of cause and effect
5 – ability to construct and follow a causal chain of facts or events
6 – algorithmic ability
7 – ability to handle abstraction
8 – logical-reasoning ability
9 – relational-reasoning ability

I surely don’t go around thinking about what capacities my ancestors developed thousands of years ago that are still highly relevant today! I do know that more complex mathematics eludes me, that I often will use my fingers to assist with counting certain items such as how much time between one hour and another, and that I prefer paper and pencil to doing mental math. And had Devlin’s NPR interviews been around when I was a high school student, listening to them might have provided me with that important mental hook into math.

sm-arithmetic.pngThough I hope faculty choose to do them all, this is one of three optional simulations, all on the Misunderstood Minds/PBS site. These activities may remind faculty that math involves much more than just calculating; it also entails writing, reading, memorizing, and being able to follow multistep directions. Sheesh, not that simple for anyone with a learning difference! You can see the full size Arithmetic screen here.

Additional Resources
• Tools for life – Learning Disabilities and Assistive Technologies – Math
Key Curriculum Press – math and science tools, of which I have seen first hand the benefits of using The Geometer’s Sketchpad

This is the fifteenth of about twenty or fewer posts, and for further information about this series please read Closings and Openings. As you follow the development of this activity, please feel free to chime in with suggestions or questions.


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