18 1 A Taste of Things to Come Bubble Wrap: Give the teens a square of bubble wrap to pop for one of their breaks. They really get into the sound and action of popping the bubbles. Should we be surprised if it were con- firmed indeed that the most comfort- able pace of execution of a recursive algorithm is set by a gene responsible for grooming behavior? As I suspected, the soothing and comforting effect of bubble wrap pop- ping is indeed well known to practic- ing psychotherapists. I would suggest that HOXB8 is indeed the Bubble Wrap Gene and is responsible for Sudoku being at- tractive to humans. I would rather hear more on that from geneticists and neurophysiologists. At last I am in a position to formulate the moral of this story. I believe that a real understanding of one of the key issues of math- ematical practice (and especially of mathematics teaching) cannot be achieved without answering a question: why are some objects, concepts, and processes of mathematics more intuitive, “natural”, or just more convenient and accept- able than others? We cannot answer it withou taking a hard and close look at the very deep and sometimes archaic levels of the human mind and the human neural system. Indeed, Stanislas Dehaene said in his book The Number Sense [171]: We have to do mathematics using the brain which evolved 30,000 years ago for survival in the African savanna. In particular, should we be surprised if it were confirmed in- deed that the most comfortable pace of execution of a recursive al- gorithm is set by a gene responsible for grooming behavior? 1.7 What lies ahead? We have seen how the deceptively simple function y = |x| launched us on a roller coaster ride through several branches of mathemat- ics. More adventures still lie ahead. They all will follow a similar plot: Usually I start by describing a very simple—sometimes ridicu- lously simple—mathematical problem, object, or procedure. Then I discuss possible neurophysiological mechanisms which might underpin the way we think and work with this object. Sometimes my conjectures are purely speculative, sometimes (for example, in the next chapter) they are based on established neurophysiological research.
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