Abstract Lesion and imaging studies to date have not clarified which sub-regions of the parietal lobe are specialized for arithmetic processing, and which perform supporting functions. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging to investigate parietal lobe function during arithmetic processing. Functional optimization was examined by analyzing regional differences in brain activation between perfect (100% accuracy) and imperfect performers. Perfect performers had significantly less activation only in the left angular gyrus, a finding that may be associated with skill mastery and long-term practice effects. The present results provide the first direct evidence of localized functional optimization for arithmetic processing in the human brain.