Factoid: Babies Do Math on Voices and Faces


Seven month old babies have an inherent sense of numbers, according to neuroscientists Kerry Jordan and Elizabeth Brannon of …

In experiments, when babies heard two coos, for example, they preferred to look at a picture of two faces rather than three and vice versa. The researchers expected the same to be true of rhesus babies.

The 20 seven-month-old infants in the study spent an average of nearly 22 seconds looking at the numerically appropriate video compared to just more than 14 seconds looking at the numerically wrong video.

“This spontaneous matching of [numbers] across [sight and sound] supports the contention that human infants, human adults and nonhuman primates share at least one common nonverbal numerical representational system,” the researchers conclude.

Their report on these findings appears in the February 14, 2006 week’s Proceedings of the National Academies of Science, according to David Biello.

While we cannot extrapolate from this study to classroom behavior of math students, such a link seems attractive to support the proposition that students can learn math.

I wonder if the researchers used a Tablet PC or other mobile device to show the videos to the babies. Seems like a reasonable tool to try in future experiments.

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Robert Heiny
Robert W. Heiny, Ph.D. is a retired professor, social scientist, and business partner with previous academic appointments as a public school classroom teacher, senior faculty, or senior research member, and administrator. Appointments included at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Peabody College and the Kennedy Center now of Vanderbilt University; and Brandeis University. Dr. Heiny also served as Director of the Montana Center on Disabilities. His peer reviewed contributions to education include publication in [I]The Encyclopedia of Education [/I](1971), and in professional journals and conferences. He served s an expert reviewer of proposals to USOE, and on a team that wrote plans for 12 state-wide and multistate special education and preschools programs. He currently writes user guides for educators and learners as well as columns for [I]TuxReports[/I].com.