The semantic system is involved in mathematical problem solving
Numerous studies have shown that the brain regions around bilateral intraparietal cortex are critical for number processing and arithmetical computation. However, the neural circuits for more advanced mathematics such as mathematical problem solving (with little routine arithmetical computation) remain unclear. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), this study (N = 24 undergraduate students) compared neural bases of mathematical problem solving (i.e., number series completion, mathematical word problem solving, and geometric problem solving) and arithmetical computation. Direct subject- and item-wise comparisons revealed that mathematical problem solving typically had greater activation than arithmetical computation in all 7 regions of the semantic system (which was based on a meta-analysis of 120 functional neuroimaging studies on semantic processing). Arithmetical computation typically had greater activation in the supplementary motor area and left precentral gyrus. The results suggest that the semantic system in the brain supports mathematical problem solving.