According to an article over at Live Science, a group of researchers at Duke University determined that a baby's sense of numbers at 6 months of age can predict his math ability at age 3. Woah!
Past research determined that babies have a primitive sense for numbers. In these studies, babies' number sense was measured by repeatedly flashing a grid of 8 dots in front of them and then changing the grid to 16 dots. Researchers concluded that a baby with a good sense for numbers will stare at the 16 dot grid longer when the changeover happens because she will sense the difference in number of dots. (Babies naturally stare at unfamiliar objects longer.)
Live Science reported that researcher Elizabeth Brannon and her colleagues developed a type of baby math test using this grid method. In this study, the researchers flashed two screens of black and white patterned dots at the baby simultaneously. According to Live Science, "The difference is that one screen always shows patterns made of the same number of dots - the size of the dots and the arrangement are all that change. On the other side, the number of dots making up the patterns changes, too. A baby with a strong number sense will notice the number of dots on one screen is changing and will look at that screen longer" (Live Science).
Researchers tested 48 six-month-old babies and then performed a general intelligence test, a standard math test, and an older patterned dots test on the same kids at age 3-and-a-half. The results? "Kids with a stronger primitive number sense as babies did better on the math tests as 3-year-olds. These advanced math abilities weren't related to stronger general intelligence, suggesting early math sense is specific to computational abilities" (Live Science). The study will be published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Okay, I don't know about you, but I had no clue that babies had an innate sense of numbers. And the idea that their ability to sense numbers at such a young age can predict future math ability is fascinating. It just further supports what we already knew about that first year of life - it is the foundation for so many crucial life skills … including math!