Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Aboriginal kids can count without numbers

19.08.2008
Knowing the words for numbers is not necessary to be able to count, according to a new study of aboriginal children by UCL (University College London) and the University of Melbourne.

The study of the aboriginal children – from two communities which do not have words or gestures for numbers – found that they were able to copy and perform number-related tasks. The findings, published in the journal PNAS, suggest that we possess an innate mechanism for counting, which may develop differently in children with dyscalculia.

Professor Brian Butterworth, lead author from the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, says: “Recently, an extreme form of linguistic determinism has been revived which claims that counting words are needed for children to develop concepts of numbers above three. That is, to possess the concept of ‘five’ you need a word for five. Evidence from children in numerate societies, but also from Amazonian adults whose language does not contain counting words, has been used to support this claim.

“However, our study of aboriginal children suggests that we have an innate system for recognizing and representing numerosities – the number of objects in a set – and that the lack of a number vocabulary should not prevent us from doing numerical tasks that do not require number words.”

The study looked at Australian indigenous populations, who have very restricted vocabularies for numbers. Although gestures are used to communicate in some indigenous Australia societies, there appear to be no gestures for numbers. The study worked with children aged four to seven from two indigenous communities: one on the edge of the Tanami Desert about 400 km north west of Alice Springs where Warlpiri is spoken; the other on Groote Eylandt in the Gulf of Carpentaria, where the local language is Anindilyakwa. Both have words for one, two, few and many, though in Anindilyakwa there are ritual words for numbers to 20, but children will not know these. The team also worked with an English-speaking indigenous group in Melbourne.

Professor Brian Butterworth continues: “In our tasks we couldn’t, for example, ask questions such as “How many?” or “Do these two sets have the same number of objects?” We therefore had to develop special tasks. For example, children were asked to put out counters that matched the number of sounds made by banging two sticks together. Thus, the children had to mentally link numerosities in two different modalities, sounds and actions, which meant they could not rely on visual or auditory patterns alone. They had to use an abstract representation of, for example, the fiveness of the bangs and the fiveness of the counters. We found that Warlpiri and Anindilyakwa children performed as well as or better than the English-speaking children on a range of tasks, and on numerosities up to nine, even though they lacked number words.

“Thus, basic numerical concepts do indeed appear to depend on an innate mechanism. This may help explain why children in numerate cultures with developmental dyscalculia find it so difficult to learn arithmetic. Although they have plenty of formal and informal opportunities to learn to count with words and do arithmetic, the innate mechanism on which skilled arithmetic is based may have developed atypically.”

Jenny Gimpel | alfa
Further information:
http://www.ucl.ac.uk

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Study relating to materials testing Detecting damages in non-magnetic steel through magnetism
23.07.2018 | Technische Universität Kaiserslautern

nachricht Innovative genetic tests for children with developmental disorders and epilepsy
11.07.2018 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: It’s All in the Mix: Jülich Researchers are Developing Fast-Charging Solid-State Batteries

There are currently great hopes for solid-state batteries. They contain no liquid parts that could leak or catch fire. For this reason, they do not require cooling and are considered to be much safer, more reliable, and longer lasting than traditional lithium-ion batteries. Jülich scientists have now introduced a new concept that allows currents up to ten times greater during charging and discharging than previously described in the literature. The improvement was achieved by a “clever” choice of materials with a focus on consistently good compatibility. All components were made from phosphate compounds, which are well matched both chemically and mechanically.

The low current is considered one of the biggest hurdles in the development of solid-state batteries. It is the reason why the batteries take a relatively long...

Im Focus: Color effects from transparent 3D-printed nanostructures

New design tool automatically creates nanostructure 3D-print templates for user-given colors
Scientists present work at prestigious SIGGRAPH conference

Most of the objects we see are colored by pigments, but using pigments has disadvantages: such colors can fade, industrial pigments are often toxic, and...

Im Focus: Unraveling the nature of 'whistlers' from space in the lab

A new study sheds light on how ultralow frequency radio waves and plasmas interact

Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...

Im Focus: New interactive machine learning tool makes car designs more aerodynamic

Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.

When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...

Im Focus: Robots as 'pump attendants': TU Graz develops robot-controlled rapid charging system for e-vehicles

Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.

Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

LaserForum 2018 deals with 3D production of components

17.08.2018 | Event News

Within reach of the Universe

08.08.2018 | Event News

A journey through the history of microscopy – new exhibition opens at the MDC

27.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Biosensor allows real-time oxygen monitoring for 'organs-on-a-chip'

21.08.2018 | Medical Engineering

Researchers discover link between magnetic field strength and temperature

21.08.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

IHP technology ready for space flights

21.08.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>