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How the Brain Learns Mathematics

Second Edition
By: David A. Sousa

Now aligned with the Common Core, this updated bestseller connects neuroscience with math instruction using a four-step teaching model, brain-friendly strategies, and the latest research.

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Product Details
  • Grade Level: PreK-12
  • ISBN: 9781483368467
  • Published By: Corwin
  • Year: 2014
  • Page Count: 256
  • Publication date: December 01, 2014

Price: $44.95

Price: $44.95
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To reach all your math students, use your brain—and theirs, too!

The bestselling and award-winning first edition of How the Brain Learns Mathematics quickly revolutionized math teaching and learning. The second edition takes readers to the next level with new brain-friendly strategies backed by the latest research from education and neuroscience and even more ways to seamlessly incorporate what you learn about your students’ developing minds into your math classroom.

In this essential resource, you’ll discover the cognitive mechanisms involved in processing mathematical operations, while exploring the environmental and developmental factors that create learning difficulties. How the Brain Learns Mathematics also presents a unique and simplified four-step teaching model that relates students’ classroom experience to concrete, real-world applications. Features of the new edition include

  • More strategies for motivating adolescents
  • Integration of the arts into mathematics instruction
  • New information on how technology affects attention and memory
  • Expanded sections on number sense and ELL instruction
  • More than 160 new references and a greatly expanded index for readers’ convenience

No matter what grade you teach, your students are growing and changing. Understanding how their brains work is the key to reaching every one of them—and making math a positive part of their lives for years to come.

“David Sousa’s book is a wonderfully readable presentation of how neuroscience and cognitive psychology can inform the teaching of mathematics in elementary and secondary schools. Sousa engages his readers intellectually with recent research on the brain and mathematics learning, and avoids pat answers where the evidence is suggestive rather than conclusive. The book is a valuable text for teachers who want a deeper insight into thinking processes behind the learning and teaching of math.”

—Robert E. Slavin, Director, Center for Research and Reform in Education
Johns Hopkins University

"Teaching mathematics without having read this book is like trying to master tennis without a coach. Sousa's book is a tour de force: It builds a solid bridge from cognitive neuroscience to daily classroom practice. Every teacher of mathematics will benefit from this well-researched, well-organized, thoughtful, and practical approach to making math instruction align with how brains learn."

—Spencer Kagan, Publisher/Professional Developer
Kagan Publishing and Professional Development


David A. Sousa photo

David A. Sousa

DR. David A. Sousa is an international consultant in educational neuroscience and author of more than twenty books that suggest ways educators and parents can translate current brain research into strategies for improving learning. A member of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society, he has conducted workshops in hundreds of school districts on brain research, instructional skills, and science education at the preK–12 and university levels. He has made presentations to more than two hundred thousand educators at national conventions of educational organizations and to regional and local school districts across the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Asia.

Dr. Sousa has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts, a master of arts in teaching degree in science from Harvard University, and a doctorate from Rutgers University. His teaching experience covers all levels. He has taught senior high school science and served as a K–12 director of science, supervisor of instruction, and district superintendent in New Jersey schools. He was an adjunct professor of education at Seton Hall University for ten years and a visiting lecturer at Rutgers University.

Prior to his career in New Jersey, Dr. Sousa taught at the American School of Paris (France) and served for five years as a foreign service officer and science advisor at the US diplomatic missions in Geneva (Switzerland) and Vienna (Austria).

Dr. Sousa has edited science books and published dozens of articles in leading journals on professional development, science education, and educational research. His most popular books for educators include How the Brain Learns, now in its sixth edition; How the Special Needs Brain Learns, second edition; How the Gifted Brain Learns; How the Brain Learns to Read, second edition; How the Brain Influences Behavior; How the ELL Brain Learns; Differentiation and the Brain, second edition (with Carol Tomlinson); and How the Brain Learns Mathematics, second edition, which was selected by the Independent Book Publishers Association as one of the best professional development books. The Leadership Brain suggests ways for educators to lead today’s schools more effectively. Dr. Sousa’s books have been published in French, Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, Korean, Russian, and several other languages. His book Brainwork: The Neuroscience Behind How We Lead Others is written for business and organizational leaders.

Dr. Sousa is past president of the National Staff Development Council (now called Learning Forward). He has received numerous awards from professional associations, school districts, and educational foundations for his commitment to research, staff development, and science education. He received the Distinguished Alumni Award and an honorary doctorate from Bridgewater State University and an honorary doctorate in humane letters from Gratz College in Philadelphia.

Dr. Sousa has been interviewed on the NBC Today show, by other television programs, and by National Public Radio about his work with schools using brain research. He makes his home in south Florida.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

About the Author


Everyone Can Do Mathematics

Why is Learning Mathematics So Hard?

Response From Mathematics Educators

About This Book

Questions This Book Will Answer

Chapter Contents

Other Helpful Tools

Assessing Your Current Knowledge of How We Learn Mathematics

What's Coming?

1. Developing Number Sense

Babies Can Count

What Is Number Sense?

Animals Also Have Number Sense

Why Do We Have Number Sense?

Piaget and Number Sense

Learning to Count



How Language Affects Counting

The Mental Number Line

Expanded Notions of Number Sense

Can We Teach Number Sense?

Quantities to Words to Symbols

Gardner’s Logical/Mathematical Intelligence

What’s Coming?

Reflections on Chapter 1

2. Learning to Calculate

Development of Conceptual Structures

Structures in Four-Year-Olds

Structures in Six-Year-Olds

Structures in Eight-Year-Olds

Structures in Ten-Year-Olds

Dealing With Multiplication

Why Are Multiplication Tables Difficult to Learn?

Multiplication and Memory

Is the Way We Teach the Multiplication Tables Intuitive?

The Impact of Language on Learning Multiplication

Do the Multiplication Tables Help or Hinder?

What’s Coming?

Reflections on Chapter 2

3. Reviewing the Elements of Learning

Learning and Remembering

Memory Systems

Rehearsal Enhances Memory

The Importance of Meaning

How Will the Learning Be Stored?

When Should New Learning Be Presented in a Lesson?

Does Practice Make Perfect?

Include Writing Activities

Gender Differences in Mathematics

Consider Learning Styles

Consider Teaching Styles

How Do You Think About Mathematics?

What’s Coming?

Reflections on Chapter 3

4. Teaching Mathematics to the Preschool and Kindergarten Brain

Should Preschoolers Learn Mathematics at All?

Assessing Students’ Number Sense

Preschoolers’ Social and Emotional Behavior

What Mathematics Should Preschoolers Learn?

Preschool and Kindergarten Instructional Suggestions

General Guidelines

Suggestions for Teaching Subitizing

Learning to Count

An Easier Counting System

Teacher Talk Improves Number Knowledge


Developing Sorting and Classifying Skills

What’s Coming?

Reflections on Chapter 4

5. Teaching Mathematics to the Preadolescent Brain

What Is the Preadolescent Brain?

How Nature Influences the Growing Brain

Environment Influences on the Young Brain

Teaching for Meaning

Using Cognitive Closure to Remember Meaning

What Content Should We Be Teaching?

Teaching Process Skills

Does the Lesson Enhance Number Sense?

Does the Lesson Deal With Estimation?

From Memorization to Understanding

Multiplication With Understanding

Does the Lesson Develop Mathematical Reasoning?

Using Practice Effectively With Young Students

Graphic Organizers

Don’t Forget the Technology

What’s Coming?

Reflections on Chapter 5

6. Teaching Mathematics to the Adolescent Brain

What Is the Adolescent Brain?

Overworking the Frontal Lobes

The Search for Novelty

Learning Styles and Mathematics Curriculum

Qualitative Versus Quantitative Learning Styles

Developing Mathematical Reasoning

Instructional Choices in Mathematics

Graphic Organizers

Interpreting Word Problems

Making Mathematics Meaningful to Teenagers

What’s Coming?

Reflections on Chapter 6

7. Recognizing and Addressing Mathematics Difficulties

Detecting Mathematics Difficulties

Determining the Nature of the Problem

Diagnostic Tools

Environmental Factors

Student Attitudes About Mathematics

Fear of Mathematics (Math Anxiety)

Neurological and Other Factors


Addressing Mathematics Difficulties

Research Findings

The Concrete-Pictorial-Abstract Approach

Using Process Mnemonics

Numeracy Intervention Process

Students With Nonverbal Learning Disability

Students With Both Mathematics and Reading Difficulties

Other Considerations

What’s Coming?

Reflections on Chapter 7

8. Putting It All Together: Planning Lessons in PreK–12 Mathematics

What Is Mathematics?

Questions to Ask When Planning Lessons

Is the Lesson Memory-Compatible?

Does the Lesson Include Cognitive Closure?

Will the Primacy-Recency Effect Be Taken Into Account?

What About Practice?

What Writing Will Be Involved?

Are Multiple Intelligences Being Addressed?

Does the Lesson Provide for Differentiation?

Simplified Instructional Model


Reflections on Chapter 8







Price: $44.95
Volume Discounts applied in Shopping Cart

For Instructors

Request Review Copy

When you select 'request review copy', you will be redirected to Sage Publishing (our parent site) to process your request.