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Math Intuition
Justin Halberda, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences

Dr. Justin Halberda

We all share a foundational number sense that has been observed in adults, infants, and nonhuman animals - these groups can all represent the approximate number of items in visual or auditory arrays without verbally counting, and use this capacity to guide everyday behaviors such as foraging.  In humans, this “Approximate Number System” is generated by neurons in the intraparietal sulcus. While everyone shares this gut sense for numbers, some people’s gut sense is more precise while others struggle.  These individual differences, detectable even in infancy, correlate with how well a child does in school mathematics classes once they enter school.  And, this relationship is maintained across the entire lifespan into old age.  The precision of your number sense can be improved throughout your life, and optimal precision typically occurs at around age 30 years. And so, while your gut intuitions for numbers may be more or less precise than another person’s, and while this precision may affect your aptitude for school mathematics, our current research focus on the ways we can improve number sense precision holds great promise for enhancing this core cognitive ability.

Professor Justin Halberda received his BS degrees in Psychology, Philosophy, Chemistry and BioChemistry from the College of Charleston and his PhD in Cognitive Psychology from NYU.  He was a visiting fellow at Harvard University and a post doc in the Laboratoire de Sciences Cognitives et Psycholinguistiques, Paris France, before joining the faculty of The Johns Hopkins University in the department of Psychological and Brain Sciences.  His work focuses on the developmental origins of logical inference, mathematical reasoning and language abilities and how these may change throughout our lives. Learn more about Dr. Halberda

Additional Information:

Test your number sense -
Through a grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation, the panamath test is available free of charge so that researchers can use it in their studies, educators can assess their students, and anyone of any age can test themselves.

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