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Is learning math like learning a language, in that there's a certain cutoff age (pretty young) that you need to start learning by, otherwise you'll never be fluent?

Is the novice older brain malleable enough to really grasp the concepts required?

I'll leave "older" mostly up to interpretation, but let's say young enough that you still have time to put in the 10,000 hours Malcolm Gladwell says you need to become an expert, but older than many people are who have already graduated with a Ph.D. in math, say, over 30.

Can you teach an old dog new math?

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I'd say so. And I'm completely dubious of that learning-language cutoff age. I've heard it, but I think it's more due to a lessened willingness to openly make mistakes and thereby make a fool of oneself then due to a complete inability to learn language. –  mixedmath Oct 14 '11 at 4:48
This is really a psychology question rather than a math question. (But maybe psychologists have never studied it.) –  Michael Hardy Oct 14 '11 at 5:21
Yet another relevant MO thread... –  J. M. Oct 14 '11 at 8:54
in my opinion there is no cutoff age in any field of study. I have to many examples to claim that cut off age in learning new language is a myth. Rather that is the matter of strategy. In every age you should find the strategy that works for you and keep up with this. So for math I assume it works in a similar way. My answer is yes –  com Oct 14 '11 at 8:56
I am currently studying a math honours degree at university and there is only two people enrolled in honours that are under 30 while there are 4 of us over with ages ranging from 30 (myself) to 56, and let me tell you that if age is a factor my the guys older than me in class would have been mathematical savants when they were young. So in summary i would certainly say that age is only a barrier if you let it be one. –  Zarks Oct 14 '11 at 10:29

1 Answer 1

up vote 15 down vote accepted

History deems it possible!

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That's a great link! –  mixedmath Oct 14 '11 at 5:00

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