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Our understanding of how the human brain performs mathematical calculations is far from complete, but in recent years there have been many exciting breakthroughs by scientists all over the world. Now, in The Number Sense, Stanislas Dehaene offers a fascinating look at this recent research, in an enlightening exploration of the mathematical mind.
Dehaene begins with the eye-opening discovery that animals – including rats, pigeons, raccoons, and chimpanzees – can perform simple mathematical calculations, and that human infants also have a rudimentary number sense. Dehaene suggests that this rudimentary number sense is as basic to the way the brain understands the world as our perception of colour or of objects in space, and, like these other abilities, our number sense is wired into the brain. These are but a few of the wealth of fascinating observations contained here. We also discover, for example, that because Chinese names for numbers are so short, Chinese people can remember up to nine or ten digits at a time – English-speaking people can only remember seven. The Number Sense also explores the unique abilities of idiot savants and mathematical geniuses, and we meet people whose minute brain lesions render their mathematical ability useless.
This new and completely updated edition includes all of the most recent scientific data on how numbers are encoded by single neurons, and which brain areas activate when we perform calculations. Perhaps most important, The Number Sense reaches many provocative conclusions that will intrigue anyone interested in learning, mathematics, or the mind.
Preface to the Revised and Expanded Edition
Preface to the First Edition
Part I: Our Numerical Heritage
Chapter 1: Talented and Gifted Animals
Chapter 2: Babies Who Count
Chapter 3: The Adult Number Line
Part II: Beyond Approximation
Chapter 4: The Language of Numbers
Chapter 5: Small Heads for Big Calculations
Chapter 6: Geniuses and Prodigies
Part III: Of Neurons and Numbers
Chapter 7: Losing Number Sense
Chapter 8: The Computing Brain
Chapter 9: What Is a Number?
Epilogue. The Contemporary Science of Number and Brain
Notes and References
Main books consulted
Useful web resources
Stanislas Dehaene teaches at the College de France and is Director of the Cognitive Neuroimaging Research Unit at INSERM.
– Ian Stewart, New Scientist
"Read The Number Sense for its rich insights into matters as varying as the cuneiform depiction of numbers, why Jean Piaget's theory of stages in infant learning is wrong, and to discover the brain regions involved in the number sense."
– The New York Times Book Review
"Dehaene weaves the latest technical research into a remarkably lucid and engrossing investigation. Even readers normally indifferent to mathematics will find themselves marveling at the wonder of minds making numbers."
"This interesting and informative book sets forth the latest findings by Dehaene and other psychologists trying to determine how the brain understands and manipulates numbers and other forms of mathematical information. Included are many startling results of experiments involving animals and infants that shed light on the extent and nature of our inborn number sense. These findings, if they receive the consideration they merit, should have a major impact on the way mathematics is taught at the elementary and secondary level. Highly recommended."
– Library Journal