'People are born good or bad with maths'

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore found that mathematical talent does not appear to be linked to all-round intelligence.

The ability to work with numbers may be something that is entirely pre-destined -- either you have it or you don't, they said.

Previous research has indicated that "number sense" is basic to humans who use it to estimate things like the number of seats in a cinema or crowd sizes.

Now the researchers, who carried out tests on children too young to have been taught mathematics, found that people are either born with a mathematical brain or not, the Daily Mail reported.

During the study, 200 four-year-olds viewed flashing groups of blue and yellow dots on a computer screen and were asked which colour was shown the most.

The children then had to count items on a page, determine which of two numbers was greater or lesser, as well as read numbers.

They were also tested on calculation skills, such as multiplication. The participants' parents were then asked about their child's vocabulary.

The verbal test was done because language and numerical abilities are thought to be linked through general intelligence.

The researchers wanted to be sure success in maths was not part of an ability to perform better in all sorts of tasks or to some children feeling more comfortable being tested than others.

The results, published in the journal Developmental Science, showed that children who got the best score in the dots test were also the most competent at the maths tests.

Dr Melissa Libertus, who led the study, said: "Previous studies testing older children left open the possibility that maths lessons determined number sense.

"In other words, some children looked like they had better number sense simply because they had better maths instruction.

"Unlike those studies, this one shows that the link between number sense and maths ability is already present before the beginning of formal maths instruction.

"One of the most important questions is whether we can train a child's number sense to improving his future maths ability."

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