# Question Sheet: Wired for Math

SCIENCE

Before reading:

1. When do you think that you started to understand how to add numbers? What

helped you to learn how to add?

2. Why do you think that some people are better at math than other people are?

During reading:

1. Elizabeth Spelke says, “Our brains seem to come equipped with systems for

estimating amounts and doing arithmetic.” Explain why she makes this statement.

2. Why is Spelke interested in learning about children’s “inborn sense of

number”?

3. What does it mean that “a number is a symbol”? Give two examples.
4. What evidence did the researchers have to conclude that young children are

able to “add and compare amounts”?

5. Why do Spelke and her team conclude that a child’s sense of number is not

dependent on language?

6. What do young children have a particularly hard time learning?

After reading:

1. Design an experiment, giving some sample problems, that would provide

additional information about the ability of young children to estimate amounts.

2. Do you think that kids who are particularly good estimators are also better

at math in school? Why or why not?

3. Spelke and her coworkers came up with five experiments to test how well

preschoolers can estimate quantities. What might have been the team’s hypothesis

for each experiment?

4. Compare a child’s ability to speak but not write with a child’s ability to

estimate but not understand numbers. How are these ideas similar and different?

5. Why is it important to study math? See mathforum.org/dr.math/faq/faq.why.math.html (Math Forum @

Drexel).

6. What is numeracy? See www.literacyandnumeracy.gov.au/2005/for_parents.htm

(Australian Government).

SOCIAL STUDIES

The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) compares how well U.S. students (fourth- and eighth-graders) do in mathematics and science to how well students in other countries do. When was the last study done? How well did the United States do in math? What were the top three countries in math for each grade level? Why do you think these countries had the best results? When will the next study occur? See nces.ed.gov/timss/ and nces.ed.gov/timss/Results03.asp (National Center for Education Statistics).

LANGUAGE ARTS

1. Write a letter to a math teacher suggesting some ways to teach math to small

children that reflect the ideas presented in this article.

2. Write a children’s story that might help children understand that numbers

are symbols.

MATHEMATICS

In 2003, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) compared how well U.S. eighth-graders did in mathematics to how well students in other countries did. The following table lists the average score on the test for each country that participated.

 Country Average score Singapore 605 Korea, Republic of 589 Hong Kong 586 Chinese Taipei 585 Japan 570 Belgium-Flemish 537 Netherlands 536 Estonia 531 Hungary 529 Malaysia 508 Latvia 508 Russian Federation 508 Slovak Republic 508 Australia 505 United States 504 Lithuania 502 Sweden 499 Scotland 498 Israel 496 New Zealand 494 Slovenia 493 Italy 484 Armenia 478 Serbia 477 Bulgaria 476 Romania 475 Norway 461 Moldova, Republic of 460 Cyprus 459 Macedonia, Republic of 435 Lebanon 433 Jordan 424 Iran, Islamic Republic of 411 Indonesia 411 Tunisia 410 Egypt 406 Bahrain 401 Palestinian National Authority 390 Chile 387 Morocco 387 Phlippines 378 Botswana 366 Saudi Arabia 332 Ghana 276 South Africa 264

How many countries participated in the study? What was the international average score? Was the United States above or below average? How many countries were better than the United States? What percentage? What was the difference between the highest and lowest average scores? What was the median average score?