Monday, June 08, 2009

Babies understand numbers as abstract concepts

Babies understand numbers as abstract concepts (6/8/09)
Our ability to think of numbers as abstract concepts is probably innate and even babies barely a few hours old seem to have the ability, researchers say. ...

Each baby was first played a 2-minute tape that contained spoken syllables, such as "ra ra ra ra me me me me"). Then, with the tape playing in the background, the baby was shown a sequence of images with abstract geometrical objects ..., in which each alternate image had the number of objects that tallied with the number of syllables.

The researchers found that 15 of 16 newborns looked significantly longer at the correct image.

While the number sense may be innate, there are still rather serious limits on what that means. It's known, for instance, that there are cultures that use a language apparently lacking names for any numbers. (See here, for example.)

And just ask a middle school mathematics teacher (for example) how many kids haven't learned much basic arithmetic, even by the sixth grade...

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