Unleash Your Child's Math Potential Right Now!

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According to a research released today, newborns as young as 5 months exhibit a rudimentary capacity to add and subtract even in the cradle.

The study appears to indicate that newborns can tell whether simple arithmetic like one plus one or two minus one are done correctly or wrong. The infants in the research demonstrated awareness of a mistaken response by gazing longer at the unexpected findings.

Researchers believe that the discovery, together with corroborating data on newborns and animals, implies that humans have an inbuilt proclivity for mathematics, as other scientists have hypothesised for language. ‘Baby Already Knows’

More immediately relevant to parents, the study throws fresh insight on the time when a newborn first learns to count. The findings «mean that when parents start teaching babies numbers, they are not teaching the baby to recognise quantities per se, but rather the names — one, two, three — we use for something the baby already knows,» said Dr. Mark Strauss, a developmental psychologist at the University of Pittsburgh.

The new discovery, reported in the journal Nature by Dr. Karen Wynn, a developmental psychologist at the University of Arizona, is «notable in the history of developmental psychology,» Dr. Peter E. Bryant, an Oxford University psychologist, stated in a journal commentary.

Some experts, however, disagree. «This study doesn’t necessarily show that infants understand maths,» said Dr Patricia Bauer, a psychologist at the University of Minnesota. «It could simply mean they understand that the display had changed in a way that violated an expectation, but not that they understood the change in quantity.»

Other experts on child development acknowledged in interviews that the results showing a rudimentary mathematical ability in infants were reasonable, albeit they could surprise most people.

«At first blush, the idea that infants could recognise simple numbers and maths seemed far-fetched,» said Dr. Lewis Lipsitt, a developmental psychologist at Brown University. «However, in light of a number of corroborating findings, it now makes sense.» Mickey’s Assist

Dr. Wynn’s study in Nature used a well-established and commonly used approach for determining whether newborns find an event unexpected or not: babies would gaze longer at something shocking than at something that fulfils their expectations or is familiar. For many years, researchers have used this phenomena to examine neonates who are too immature to express their mental emotions in other ways.

Dr Wynn utilised four-inch-high Mickey Mouse miniatures to provide the newborns with maths challenges. For the issue one plus one, she showed the newborns one figurine, then hid it behind a little screen. Then, in plain view of the child, a hand put another figure behind the screen. Finally, the screen was removed to show both figures. The length of time the infant stared at the two Mickey Mouse sculptures was monitored by video monitors.

Using the same method, the researchers would occasionally take the screen away to display a false response, such as only one figurine or three when there should have been two. In these circumstances, the newborns stared for many seconds longer, showing that they expected the correct response and were astonished by the different number.

According to the researchers, the newborns’ response did not just reflect an anticipation that there would be more or less items. They discovered that in the one-plus-one experiment, the newborns gazed longer when the screen was pushed away to reveal three objects rather than two. This demonstrated that the response was determined by the numerical response rather than the expectation of more items.

«Infants can compute the results of simple arithmetic problems,» Dr. Wynn added. «It suggests we’re getting at the underlying architecture of an infant’s numerical abilities.» This primitive capacity serves as a foundation for subsequent mathematical comprehension.»

The findings, according to Dr. Wynn, suggest that there may be an inbuilt structure in the mind for understanding numbers, similar to what linguist Noam Chomsky has hypothesised for language.

Dr. Wynn’s findings are not the first to demonstrate rudimentary arithmetic ability in babies, but they are important since her processes were meticulously devised to address methodological concerns raised in previous research.

The major dispute had been on whether newborns responded to the quantities of items or the patterns the objects produced. For example, two things can be viewed as a line, and three as a triangle, rather than as numbers per se. Dr Wynn overcome this obstacle by presenting the figurines in a queue, whether there were two or three of them.

The study builds on previous results by other experts that newborns have a limited capacity to recognise numbers.

In a typical experiment, Dr. Strauss of the University of Pittsburgh gave newborns a series of pairings of items, such as toy elephants. When the newborns lost interest, he reduced the number of things displayed in succession to one, three, or four. The newborns gazed longer this time, which was believed to imply that they could detect the difference between the numbers.

Over the last two decades, researchers have revealed an astounding range of mental talents in babies, «a creature that was once thought to be utterly incompetent and ineffective,» according to Dr. Bryant. Among the shown skills of early newborns are: distinguishing items by shape, size, and colour; and understanding that objects continue to exist when out of sight.

The idea that children are born with basic math skills «is scientifically plausible,» according to Dr Rochel Gelman, a psychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles. She and other researchers also note a growing amount of evidence suggesting various kinds of animals, from birds to chimps, have comparable skills to recognise numbers and respond to changes in them.

Though child development specialists familiar with the study on baby maths believe that it is sound, they differ on its implications. Dr. Bryant of Oxford University, for example, predicted in a Nature article that children who were better at recognising numbers might be more likely to be great mathematicians throughout time.


Number sense in infancy predicts mathematical abilities in childhood
Non-symbolic arithmetic abilities and mathematics achievement in the first year of formal schooling
Non-symbolic arithmetic abilities and mathematics achievement in the first year of formal schooling
Individual differences in non-verbal number acuity correlate with maths achievement
Core systems of number
Preschoolers’ precision of the approximate number system predicts later school mathematics performance

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