There are many stereotypes about left-handers. Some studies have found them to be more creative, others have found them to be more athletic, and many have suggested that their life expectancy is shorter than those who write with their right. It’s difficult to determine whether there is any truth to these ideas and now another paper has been added to the pile.
A new study, by the University of Liverpool and the University of Milan has discovered that in certain scenarios lefties may be better at math. This concept isn’t new in itself. There has been some previous research that has proposed that there are more male left-handed math undergraduates than there are right-handed ones (21% vs. 11%). There were also more female left-handed undergraduates, than right-handed ones, but the difference was not as dramatic (11% vs 8%). However, other papers were more ambivalent.
This research found the differences between left and right handers to be a bit more complex. The authors challenged 2300, six-seventeen-year-old students to mathematical tasks and had their “handedness” assessed by the Edinburgh Handedness Inventory (yes this exists!).
“This study found there is a moderate, yet significant, correlation between handedness and mathematical skill. Moreover, the amount of variance in the maths scores explained by handedness was about 5-10%, a surprisingly high percentage for a variable like handedness,” Giovanni Sala, the lead author of the study, said.
“We also found that the degree of handedness and mathematical skills were influenced by age, type of mathematical task and gender. For example, the most lateralized children – that means those who were very one-sided either very left- or very right-handed – tended to underperform compared to the rest of the sample. However, this effect disappeared in male left-handed adolescents, who performed much better than their peers.”
So in short, the hand you write with has a slight influence on your math performance. However, information about handedness is so nascent and unlikely to be revealing anytime soon. You are still very much better off forcing your kids to study harder, do more homework and incorporate math in their daily lives than to teach them to write with a different hand.
Marina Gomer is a journalist and mother of two. She lives with her family in Sydney, Australia.