Children understand division even before they start learning math

(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists have confirmed that children already at an early age, before the start of lessons at school, are able to intuitively divide the numbers and quantities of objects. The results of the study will help educators develop new ways of teaching.

Multiplication and division seem to us to be those mathematical operations that children are first introduced to in school. However, many studies show that even before the start of the educational process, children have intuitive arithmetic abilities.

Scientists from the University of Pennsylvania (USA) came to the conclusion that these abilities of preschoolers extend even to such a complex mathematical problem as division.

The basis for the study was the theory of approximate number system, according to which humans and some primates already at an early age have an intuitive ability to compare and evaluate large sets of objects without relying on language or symbols.

For example, a child may understand that a group of 20 dots is larger than a group of four dots, even though the four dots take up more space than 20 dots. The ability to make more accurate approximations comes with age.

The scientists conducted several experiments assessing how children aged six to nine and college students perform approximate division: symbolic (number division) and non-symbolic (dot division).

In one experiment, participants watched dots/numbers (dividend) fall from the top of a computer screen onto a flower with varying numbers of petals (divider). They had to determine which number of dots/numbers is greater – located on a flower or appearing on a separate petal in the corner of the screen.

Children chose the correct answer in 73-77% of cases, depending on whether they received feedback at different stages of the experiment.

Adults gave correct answers almost 90% of the time. At the same time, even those children who could not solve a single formal oral or written division problem (for example, answer how much four divided by two) coped well with the task of the experiment.

Thus, children still at preschool age have an intuitive idea of ​​dividing the number of objects, and sometimes even symbols. It is likely that this ability is due to the same area of ​​the brain that is involved in the development of more formal mathematics.


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