- When do you think that you started to understand how to add numbers? What
helped you to learn how to add?
- Why do you think that some people are better at math than other people are?
- Elizabeth Spelke says, “Our brains seem to come equipped with systems for
estimating amounts and doing arithmetic.” Explain why she makes this statement.
- Why is Spelke interested in learning about children’s “inborn sense of
- What does it mean that “a number is a symbol”? Give two examples.
- What evidence did the researchers have to conclude that young children are
able to “add and compare amounts”?
- Why do Spelke and her team conclude that a child’s sense of number is not
dependent on language?
- What do young children have a particularly hard time learning?
- Design an experiment, giving some sample problems, that would provide
additional information about the ability of young children to estimate amounts.
- Do you think that kids who are particularly good estimators are also better
at math in school? Why or why not?
- 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?
- 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?
- Why is it important to study math? See mathforum.org/dr.math/faq/faq.why.math.html (Math Forum @
- What is numeracy? See www.literacyandnumeracy.gov.au/2005/for_parents.htm
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).
- Write a letter to a math teacher suggesting some ways to teach math to small
children that reflect the ideas presented in this article.
- Write a children’s story that might help children understand that numbers
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.
|Moldova, Republic of||
|Macedonia, Republic of||
|Iran, Islamic Republic of||
|Palestinian National Authority||
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?