# Innate Number Sense in Babies Predicts Future Mathematical Skills, Study

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Babies who can differentiate small and large group of objects even before learning how to count are more likely to do well in math in future, according to a study conducted by researchers from the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences. The study says that this primitive level of understanding of numbers helps lay the foundation for higher-level math learning.

"When children are acquiring the symbolic system for representing numbers and learning about math in school, they're tapping into this primitive number sense," Elizabeth Brannon, Ph.D., a professor of psychology and neuroscience, who led the study, said in an official statement. "It's the conceptual building block upon which mathematical ability is built.

Brannon said that babies are born with a basic understanding or primitive number sense. Even before learning how to verbally count, primitive number sense allows them to identify the larger numerical collection of the lot, just by looking at them. Children can instinctively make out that a group of 15 strawberries is more than six oranges.

For the study, the researchers placed 48 six months old infants in front of two screens, one of them had eight dots which kept changing its size and position and in the second one, the number of dots kept changing from eight to 16 in number. They found that kids that could differentiate between the two numerical values (8 and 16) looked longer at the numerically changing screen.

The researchers then studied the same kids at 3.5 years of age with a non symbolic number comparison game. They showed two different collections of dots to the kids and asked them to identify the larger collection without counting them. Besides the game, the children also completed a math and an IQ test for pre schoolers.

"We found that infants with higher preference scores for looking at the numerically changing screen had better primitive number sense three years later compared to those infants with lower scores," said Brannon's colleague, Duke psychology and neuroscience graduate student Ariel Starr. "Likewise, children with higher scores in infancy performed better on standardized math tests."

"Our study shows that infant number sense is a predictor of symbolic math," Brannon said. "We believe that when children learn the meaning of number words and symbols, they're likely mapping those meanings onto pre-verbal representations of number that they already have in infancy."

The finding was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.