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October 25, 2019 Friday 01:57:06 PM IST

You Can Teach Counting to Babies Much Before they Join Kindergarten

Photo by Miguel R Perez Nivas for Pixabay.com

Babies are capable of understanding and counting numbers much early in their life and not at the age of four when they enter Kindergarten. A research done by John Hopkins University team  of cognitive scientists discovered that babies who hear counting realize that counting indicates quantity. The findings were reported in the journal Developmental Science pointed out that babies may be years away from understanding the exact meaning of number words yet recognise that counting is about number. Lisa Feigenson, a cognitive scientist at Johns Hopkins who specializes in the development of numeric ability in children said, "Research like ours shows that babies actually have a pretty sophisticated understanding of the world—they're already trying to make sense of what adults around them are saying, and that includes this domain of counting and numbers." 
To find out, Feigenson and first author Jenny Wang, a former graduate student at Johns Hopkins who is slated to become an assistant professor at Rutgers University, worked with 14- and 18-month-old infants. The babies watched as toys—little dogs or cars—were hidden in a box that they couldn't see inside of but could reach into. 
Sometimes the researchers counted each toy aloud as they dropped them into the box, saying, "Look! One, two, three, four! Four dogs!" Other times the researchers simply dropped each toy into the box, saying, "This, this, this, and this—these dogs." 
Without counting, the babies had a hard time remembering that the box held four things. They tended to become distracted after the researchers pulled just one out—as if there was nothing else to see. But when the toys were counted, the babies clearly expected more than one to be pulled from the box. They didn't remember the exact number but they did remember the approximate number. 
"When we counted the toys for the babies before we hid them, the babies were much better at remembering how many toys there were," Wang said. "As a researcher these results were really surprising. And our results are the first to show that very young infants have a sense that when other people are counting it is tied to the rough dimension of quantity in the world." 
The team is now conducting several follow-up studies to determine whether early counting practice leads to later number skills and if English-speaking babies react to counting in a foreign language.

Source: John Hopkins University



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