Verbal…Harder than Math? Part 2

Part 1: Verbal Harder Than Math?

A month ago, Iranian mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani, who was also the first female Field’s Metal winner, died. From her obituary, this passage stood out:

Maryam Mirzakhani was born on May 3, 1977, in Tehran. As a child, she read voraciously and wanted to become a writer. Iran was at war with Iraq at the time, but the war ended as she entered middle school.

So she transitioned from being reading and writing prodigy, to a few years later, an Olympiad-winning math prodigy. Obviously, her IQ was immeasurably high, but it also shows how people with high verbal IQ can easily make the transition to advanced math, whereas the reverse transition is harder. Thus verbal ability is possibly a better predictor of exceptional math ability, than even math ability. This is similar to the earlier article How I Rewired My Brain to Become Fluent in Math (response), in which the author, Barbara Oakley, who growing up had no predilection towards math but excelled at writing, was able to teach herself graduate-level math with relative ease, due to having a high IQ:

We’ll it’s fairly obvious the author has a high IQ, and this helped her make the transition from a ‘mathphobe’ to a ‘numerophile’. HBD explains what others attribute to ‘magic’, ‘rewiring’, or ‘tons of practice’. This also douses water on the multiple intelligences theory, as opposed to the Spearman ‘general g’ theory of intelligence. The creation of these multiples types of ‘intelligence’ (‘street smarts’, EQ, ‘multiple intelligences’) seems to be part of a trend in political correctness in not wanting to face the unpleasant reality that some people are perhaps smarter than others, so by creating many types of intelligences, everyone can be smart at ‘something’. As it turns out, people who are smart at writing can often make the transition to other high-IQ endeavors such as math or coding, whereas those who are less intelligent tend to not be very good at anything intellectual-related.

There are other examples, but oddly enough, they all involve (like the two examples above) women. A third example is the ‘fledgling physicist‘ blog by Susan Fowler, who taught herself graduate-level physics in under two years despite allegedly having only rudimentary math knowledge. By getting maximum verbal scores on standardized tests, she was offered scholarships, and then in college became a physicist. Maybe parts of her story are embellished, but it’s still very impressive.

Suppose you run a quant company and you receive two job applications that are otherwise otherwise identical except for SAT scores: ‘Bob’ with an 800 verbal a 600 math, or ‘Tom’ with an 800 math and a 600 verbal. Whom do you choose? Seems obvious…you choose Tom. Or do you? Given that the math portion has a lower effective ceiling than verbal, and being that exceptional verbal ability is predicative of the ability to acquire to exceptional math ability (as the examples above show), maybe Bob is the better bet. Because a perfect verbal score is predictive of an IQ of 150 (versus, say, 130 for a perfect math score), Bob is obviously very smart and can be brought up to speed on quant math, and will even surpass Tom, who has a head start at math but is overall less intelligent.