A head for numbers

A new study shows the different thinking involved in “how much” versus “how many.”

Kevin Friedl in Seed Magazine:

Neuroscientists at University College London and Caltech identified the region of the brain active in performing basic mathematical concepts such as counting and arithmetic. Their findings could eventually help educators teach math more effectively and identify students with learning disabilities.

The study, published earlier this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, also explains how our minds differentiate between “how many” objects we see or “how much” of something is in a particular space.

To understand the two different modes of evaluating amounts, imagine picking the shortest checkout line at the grocery store. You could count the number of shoppers in each, in which case you’d be thinking discretely, in terms of numerosity. However, if you were a hurried shopper, you would probably take a quick glance over each line and pick the one that seemed the shortest, thinking in terms of continuous quantity.

More here.