A truly fascinating article in the Times‘ science section the other day described how researchers are beginning to identify the genetic or neurological underpinnings of mathematical capacity – the instinctual ability to compare two quantities, for instance:
Humans use two distinct number systems, one learned and one intuitive. Computation, such as taking a square root, is an abstract process that is uniquely human. But the nonverbal process of approximating numbers is a system we share with infants and many other animals.
Well worth reading on its own, the article also links to an interesting online game which asks the player to briefly view a screen of blue and yellow dots, then state whether there were more yellow or blue dots. The average is about 75%. Fun and challenging, the game also might surprise you with evidence of an innate ability (or lack of ability) to recognize quantities.
2 thoughts on “Gut-Level Math”
J lives in the world of approximation and has a head full of short cuts to do quick math. I wish we could back in time and test him.
I did the test once and got it right, but it might be because I see the yellow dots so much more prominently than the blue ones.
I was 85% correct in 25 quickly done tests. I have more math ability than I thought, and apparently a bit too much time on my hands.