Finding Your Six-Month-Old's Inner Mathematician

In 2010, Duke researchers scored infants according to their innate number sense. Three years later, further tests show a correlation between those scores and mathematical aptitude: The higher the score, the better the skill.

What's the Latest Development?


A study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences follows up on a 2010 study in which Duke University researcher Elizabeth Brannon and colleagues tested the innate number sense of a group of six-month-olds. In that study, the infants were shown two screens with fixed and varying numbers of dots respectively. Those that spent more time looking at the screen with the changing numbers of dots were determined to have a well-developed innate number sense. The new study revisited those same children and tested them on a number of different mathematical skills. The kids who performed best were the same kids who did well on the innate number sense test three years prior.

What's the Big Idea?

Humans are born with an ability to distinguish between groups of different sizes. Past studies have proven that those in whom this ability is strongly developed tend to be good at math. However, the Duke study may be the first to identify a possible correlation between innate number sense in infancy and math skills in early childhood. The researchers suggest that finding ways to further develop this sense in infants could help them become stronger in math later on.

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