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Is being good at maths something you're born with?

Nov 12, 2013

Is being good at maths something you're born with?New research investigates whether being good at maths comes down to an in-built ability with numbers.

We can all make rough judgments about numbers without counting, which lets us spot quickly which of two sets of things there are more of. In fact, not only are we born with this skill, we share it with other animals like chimpanzees. But does this have anything to do with our ability to do more complicated maths?

That's the question psychologist Elizabeth Brannon set out to answer. She started out by testing the ability of six-month old babies to spot differences in number. Three years later, she tested the same children's maths skills to see if there was a connection.

The children who had a better understanding of numbers as babies turned out to be better at maths when they were three, suggesting that there is a connection. But the difference was very small compared to factors like education, showing that people who struggle more with maths shouldn't give up.

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