On Oct 31, 2012, at 1:35 AM, Louis Talman <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
> Just what is it you don't like about the possibility that humans share a number sense with most other animals, and that this number sense may be connected with our ability to do mathematics? Why do you find it frightening that, as Dehaene suggests, the "mathy" kids may be precisely those who succeed in connecting their innate number sense with the algorithms of arithmetic, but the "non-mathy" kids are the ones for whom the connection fails?
That is a good question, and I answered this previously when I reviewed the book.
Irregardless of the title of his book and his intent, Dehaene doesn't show "number sense" in animals, he shows "quantitive sense". It would be as if I said that animals and humans share the innate sense of speech because we both are capable of making sounds. I opined then that this was a deliberate slight of hand by Dehaene. Talk about something that would catch the reader's attention (number sense), establish something else (quantitive sense), continue on as if you had established the other (number sense). I suppose that since this work is meant for popular appeal rather than science, Dehaene can use any plot device he wishes.
Yes, it would be fantastic if "number sense" was innate. But it isn't. The reason it isn't is that number sense is a sense of an imaginary construct, an abstraction. It is not an extension of the concrete (physical) sense of quantity (which pile is bigger). Some students take to this sense faster than others but no student is born with it. This is why arithmetic is so important and why it shows up as the common denominator for students doing well in mathematics. It is where we get our sense of number. Without that sense we have nothing. It would be like taking music lessons with no sense of music.
So, I have told you why I firmly reject Dehaene's argument, but you didn't exactly ask me that. You asked me what I don't like about the possibility that humans share a number sense with most animals..." I don't have anything against the possibility. I already answered that think it would be fantastic if just humans had the sense (innately). But if animals had it as well, shoot, that would be awesome, and weird. Can you imagine a Kahn academy for dogs. Don't laugh (or scowl), you have seen what people do for their pets. If there was any truth in this there would be private pet schools, maybe even public pet schools. All joking aside, I would like it. I have always adored (and miss) the movies my son watched when he was little, where the animals all had human qualities and the ability to speak and reason.