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Toddlers’ clever maths

It may seem hard to believe that the toddler who triumphally says “See car” is doing some clever work with set theory, defining ‘see’ as one sort of word and ‘car’ as another sort of word, and pairing the two together as a set of contrasting members. And of course, the toddler knows nothing of set theory or bracketing. Cars are just interesting things, or not for non-petrol-heads. But all the important developments of this stage of life have a critical mathematical aspect. Walking involves a very complex rhythmic shift of most of the body weight from one side to the other, a curved swinging of the leg with a flexion of the knee in the middle, az straightening of the foot to drive the process, and swunging the arms in opposite directions to the actions of the leg on the same side. Each step is a set of actions. The most economical account of these two major developmental achievements, usually quite close to one another in time is that there is a cognitive commonality.

Published on July 28, 2022