Liz Brannon · Foundations for symbolic mathematics: development and evolution of our primitive number sense
Adult humans quantify, label, and categorize almost every aspect of the world with numbers. The ability to use numbers is one of the most complex cognitive abilities that humans possess and is often held up as a defining feature of the human mind. In my talk I will present a body of data that demonstrates that there are strong developmental and evolutionary precursors to adult mathematical cognition that can be uncovered by studying human infants and nonhuman primates. Developmental data and controversies will be discussed in light of comparative research with monkeys and other animals allowing us to see both parallels and discontinuities in the evolutionary and developmental building blocks of adult human cognition. Implications for education will be explored by describing a) a longitudinal study exploring the relationship between infants’ number sense and later developing mathematical cognition in childhood and b) a set of training studies exploring the link between primitive number sense and symbolic mathematics.