innate mathematical ability

You don't need to count to see that five apples are more than three oranges: you can tell just by looking. That's because you were born with a sense for number. But is that sense related to the mathematical abilities you develop later on?

Human reasoning is biased and illogical. At least that's what a huge body of psychological research seems to show. But now a psychological scientist from the University of Toulouse in France has come up with a new theory: that logical and probabilistic thinking is an intuitive part of decision making, only its conclusions often lose out to heuristic considerations.

People as well as animals are born with a sense for numbers. But is this inborn number sense related to mathematical ability? A new study suggests that it is.

How did we evolve our capacity for maths? Does maths piggy-back on our ability for language, or is it a completely separate faculty? Is it dependent on culture? Plus spoke to the cognitive psychologist Rosemary Varley to find some answers.
Is geometry hard-wired into our brain?
Do you need language to do maths?
  • What is maths for? - What do we hope people will know after studying maths at school?
  • New Plus posters! - Find out how you can get hold of your own copy of our brilliant new poster!
  • Specially for students - This issue of Plus brings you the first of an occasional series expecially for use in the classroom.
  • Optional maths - should students be able to give up maths at age 14?
  • Outer space - In what will now be a regular feature, mathematician and cosmologist John D. Barrow shares some maths that's amused and intrigued him.
  • Readers' corner- More Strange activities for last issue's Ship of Fools!
  • Information overload - how mathematicians are helping us all to make sense of the vast amount of information now available to us
  • Sum problems - can you be good at mathematics without being good at arithmetic?
  • Readers' corner - Meet Mandy, the cuddly Mandelbrot set!
Neuropsychologist Brian Butterworth tells us about research showing that even newborn babies have a basic understanding of number. It seems we are all mathematicians!
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