Babies grasp math before gift of gab: study Last Updated Tue, 14 Feb 2006 13:52:58 EST CBC News Babies can perceive the idea of numerical concepts even before they start talking, a new study suggests. Researchers in North Carolina showed seven-month-olds could match the number of voices they heard to the number of faces they expected to see. The same numerical perception in monkeys was identified by Elizabeth Brannon, a professor at Duke University's Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, and graduate student Kerry Jordan. In experiments, babies listened to two or three women saying "look." Simultaneously, the babies could choose to look at video images of two or three women saying the word. Like monkeys, babies spent more time looking at the image that matched the number of women talking, Brannon and Jordan report in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "As a result of our experiments, we conclude that the babies are showing an internal representation of 'two-ness' or 'three-ness' that is separate from sensory modalities, and thus reflects an abstract internal process," Brannon said in a statement. "These results support the idea that there is a shared system between pre-verbal infants and non-verbal animals for representing numbers." Somehow, babies seem to quickly gain the ability to perceive numbers, she said. Similar experiments by other researchers showed different results, but the setup of the studies could be to blame in three ways, according to Brannon: -- Earlier studies used arbitrary stimuli such as drumbeats instead of "ecologically relevant stimuli." -- Sounds were presented successively, which means the duration of the sequence could cause problems. -- Babies were tested more than once, which could have given them the opportunity to learn something about the stimuli, such as associating the length of a drumbeat sequence with numbers. The researchers' next step is to test babies and monkeys on their perceptions of larger numbers. The findings could help in testing methods for teaching basic math skills to the very young, and in exploring the evolutionary origins of numerical ability. http://www.cbc.ca/story/science/national/2006/02/14/baby-math060214.html i had a prof who wondered how much math humans know without any training, & for some reason i didn't think anyone would work on answering that question. anyway it might lead to some support for people who think math is discovered rather than created. i guess this result won't be incredibly surprising since (by legend anyway) gauss could calculate before he learned to talk. in james newman's "world of math" there's an article on the counting abilities of crows. apparently crows have a much greater ability to count, say, 9 or 10 random dots on a page just by glancing at it for a fraction of a second. humans can succesfully count only about half that amount. he also wondered how much logic humans are born with.