"Number Sense" is Present in Infancy. Or: Why You’re Bad at Math

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There’s the calculating, multiplying, complex side of math, sure — but that’s only one small part of how our brain handles numbers. There’s also a deeper, intuitive feeling for numbers, and according to Johns Hopkins developmental psychologist Melissa Libertus, that number sense is present in infancy, long before we’re taught how to count.

Intuitive number sense is something akin to the ability to estimate how many jelly beans are in the jar, or how many people are in the room. And here’s the bad news:  some of us are just better at it than others, from a very young age.  Dr. Libertus’s work with toddlers showed that intuitive math sense — something as simple as saying whether there were more blue or yellow dots flashed on a screen — correlates to higher scores on standardized tests.

If you dare, take a test here to contribute to research, and to see how well you measure up. My Weber fraction (w) was .13; take the test and see if you “get” numbers better than I do.



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