Research conducted by Johns Hopkins University psychologists indicates math ability in preschool children is strongly linked to their inborn and primitive "number sense," called an "Approximate Number System" -- ANS.
Everyone uses the innate number sense when estimating the number of open seats in a movie theater or the number of people in a crowded meeting, the researchers say.
The link between ANS and formal mathematics ability has been established in adolescents but psychologist Melissa Libertus says her study is the first to examine the role of "number sense" in children too young to have begun formal mathematics instruction, a Johns Hopkins release said Monday.
"The relationship between 'number sense' and math ability is important and intriguing because we believe that 'number sense' is universal, whereas math ability has been thought to be highly dependent on culture and language and takes many years to learn," she says. "Thus, a link between the two is surprising and raises many important questions and issues, including one of the most important ones, which is whether we can train a child's number sense with an eye to improving his future math ability."
The study suggests "that the link between 'number sense' and math ability is already present before the beginning of formal math instruction," Libertus says.