Archive for September 19th, 2008

How Good Are You at Estimating?

September 19, 2008

In the recent New York Times article “Gut Instinct’s Surprising Role in Math” (subscription wall), Natalie Angier reports on an article in the Sept. 7, 2008 Nature called “Individual differences in non-verbal number acuity correlate with maths achievement”. (press release from Johns Hopkins)

A study by Justin Halberda, Lisa Feigenson, and Michelle Mazzocco at Johns Hopkins has demonstrated a correlation between humans’ innate number sense (which aids in estimation, a trait shared by many animals) and their success in more formal and abstract mathematics courses. They have not made any claims about genetic predisposition to ability in math (and caution against doing so), but the results are certainly interesting. (Glancing at their publication lists, it appears that each have interests in the development of children’s mathematical abilities, and have done similar research in the past.)

You can take the same “dots test” that the research subjects took here. The test claims that an “average adult” will score around 75% over a reasonable sample of tests (at least 25). (Does that mean the “average adult” would probably get a ‘C’ in calculus?) How does your score correlate with your math grades?

(Via Language Log)