Next time someone complains about arithmetic being hard, math lovers can defend themselves by saying "even a 6-month-old can do it."
Through monitoring the brains of infants, researchers confirmedthat infants as early as 6 months in age can detect mathematical errors, putting to rest a debate that has gone on for over a decade.
A team of scientists from the United States and Israel exposed 24infants to a videotaped puppet show. They used the puppets for addition and subtraction while observing the reaction of the babies.
For example, they started the show with two dolls. Before the showended, a doll was removed and then the infant's vision was blocked with a screen. When the screen was taken away, either one doll was left, as expected, or two dolls, which would not be mathematicallycorrect.
The infants looked at the screen longer (8.04 seconds) when the number of dolls was two, which did not agree with the solution of 2 – 1 = 1.
On average, they gazed at the screen for 6.94seconds when the correct number of dolls was on the screen.
During the tests, the babies wore a special head net containing 128 sensors that monitored their brain activity. Analysis illustrated thatbabies have similar brain activity to that of adults when served with correct and incorrect mathematical solutions.
This shows that the same anatomy exists in infants as in adults, said Michael Posner,a professor of psychology at the University of Oregon. The finding, detailed in the Aug. 15 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, goes against the idea that basic changes inbrain anatomy occur between infancy and adulthood.
“A bigger consequence for us is that the origin of the executive attention system must go back to infancy.” Previous research indicated that thissystem, related to decision-making and task switching, does not develop until a child is 2.5 years of age.
Other research has shown that math skills develop early. One study showed that babies have the...
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