Elena Martynova

Intuition in Mathematical Problem Solving

Science is a synonym for analytical thought, rigor, meticulousness and rationality. However, some of the greatest scientific discoveries, inventions and even proofs relied on the complete opposite of that intuition. In mathematics, mother of all sciences, intuition is routine: there is no point in dedicating decades to proving a conjecture if one does not have an intuition that it is solvable. Existing research has approached intuition primarily through a linguistic lens; my research project will extend the reach of intuition to the domain of mathematical problem solving. More precisely, I will examine peoples intuitive (unconscious) ability to make estimations about arithmetic problems. My research also includes investigating symbolic distance effects which are a phenomenon when the time to compare two symbols varies inversely with the distance between their referents. This research has implications for understanding the role of unconscious processing in problem solving, intuition, and mathematical cognition.

Message to Sponsor

Since kindergarten I used to make observations about the world which seemed natural to me, but completely unknown and surprising to others. After I explained my reasoning, people would often say, "Oh, that might be true, somebody should test it! Why not me? I used to think. That was how I started keeping notebooks filled with data from my experiments as well as cases for and against my observations. However, my dream has always been to examine my ideas by conducting actual research. Hence, I am extremely happy and grateful to have the support of SURF and the JSB Fund donors as well as my incredibly wonderful mentors who, together, made my long lived dream come true.
  • Major: Psychology, Statistics
  • Sponsor: JSB
  • Mentor: John Kihlstrom, Psychology