Why is learning sometimes easy and sometimes hard? Why do some of us excel in learning some things, but not others? In this talk, Darko Odic, Green College Leading Scholar, will use the tools of psychology and cognitive science to explore how young children's earliest intuitions of number—their ability to roughly estimate number through their Approximate Number System (ANS)—relate to learning and use of symbolic mathematics.
First, he will demonstrate that the ANS is fundamental for children's earliest math learning: children who have a poor ANS also perform poorly on simple math tests, while those with a strong ANS perform significantly better. Thus, talent in learning mathematics may partly depend on our intuitive sense of number. Second, Darko will demonstrate that the relationship between the ANS and mathematics is causal: by temporarily modulating the precision of each child's ANS, we can also temporarily impair or enhance their subsequent math performance. This work helps us understanding why some children struggle in mathematics while others readily succeed, and has implications for education and math interventions.