A study conducted by a team of psychologists at John Hopkins University in Baltimore, America suggests that your ability to work with numbers may be something that is hereditary – either you have the gift or not at all. This was concluded after testing pre-school children.
Led by Dr Melissa Libertus, the research focuses for the first time on children too young to have had lessons in mathematics.
“Our study shows the link between ‘number sense’ and maths ability is already present before the beginning of formal math instruction. The relationship between ‘number sense’ and maths ability is important and intriguing,” she said.
The term ‘number sense’ is also known as Approximate Number System, something that is basic to all animals. It is that cognitive system that supports the estimation of the magnitude of a group without relying on language or symbols, like counting the number of people in a crowd.
Maths ability, according to Libertus, has been thought to be highly dependent on culture and language and takes many years to learn.
“A link between the two is surprising and raises many important questions and issues,” she added.
In the study, 200 four-year-olds were put to tests, one of which was measure their number sense. This was done by asking to view flashing groups of blue and yellow dots on a computer screen, and estimate which color dot was shown the most.
Their maths ability was also measured through verbally counting items on a page. They were given time to determine which of two numbers was greater or lesser. This includes reading Arabic numbers.
Moreover, the preschoolers were also asked about addition and multiplication, calculations skills, and number concepts to measure their basic understanding about them.
Parents and guardians of the children are also involved in the study. They were assessed and also asked to report about their child’s word and verbal skills.
The results revealed that children who got the best score in the dots test were also the most competent at the maths tests. Meaning that being good at maths could be inborn, which also applies to those who are not good at numbers.
Libertus said that this study just shows that the link between ‘number sense’ and math ability is already present before the beginning of formal instruction. This is contrary to previous studies which believe that math lessons determined number sense.
She admits that the results just raise many important avenues for future research and applications in education. One of which, she told, is that whether the child can be train with their number sense to improve his or her future math ability.
Source: Telegraph UK