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Psychol Sci. 2013 Jun;24(6):1037-43. doi: 10.1177/0956797612464057. Epub 2013 Apr 26.

Education enhances the acuity of the nonverbal approximate number system.

Author information

1
Cognitive Neuroimaging Unit, INSERM, Gif sur Yvette, France. manuela.piazza@unitn.it

Abstract

All humans share a universal, evolutionarily ancient approximate number system (ANS) that estimates and combines the numbers of objects in sets with ratio-limited precision. Interindividual variability in the acuity of the ANS correlates with mathematical achievement, but the causes of this correlation have never been established. We acquired psychophysical measures of ANS acuity in child and adult members of an indigene group in the Amazon, the Mundurucú, who have a very restricted numerical lexicon and highly variable access to mathematics education. By comparing Mundurucú subjects with and without access to schooling, we found that education significantly enhances the acuity with which sets of concrete objects are estimated. These results indicate that culture and education have an important effect on basic number perception. We hypothesize that symbolic and nonsymbolic numerical thinking mutually enhance one another over the course of mathematics instruction.

KEYWORDS:

cross-cultural differences; mathematical ability; perception; sociocultural factors

PMID:
23625879
PMCID:
PMC4648254
DOI:
10.1177/0956797612464057
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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