Are Some Students Born to Excel at Math?
Do some children have a genetic predisposition to be strong math students? A study that was recently published by the journal 'Developmental Science' suggests that they do. The researchers found that certain math skills may be exhibited even in newborns.
Newborns and Numbers
A team of psychologists at Johns Hopkins University found that math skills in preschool children appear to be innate. The study, which is titled Preschool acuity of the approximate number system correlates with school math ability, found a connection between the preschoolers' ability in math and their 'number sense.' According to research, number sense is a quality found in all animals. For example, it helps a squirrel determine where the most nuts can be found, thereby providing a necessary survival skill. In humans, it can be used for tasks as common as estimating the size of a crowd at a party.
The link between math skills and number sense had previously been found in older children. The revelation of the new study, which included 200 children around age four, is that it exists in children at such a young age. Preschoolers, unlike adolescents, generally haven't been exposed to formal math education. It's possible, though still unproven, that successful development of number sense in young children can boost later math ability.
Inside the Study
The study tested children on number sense, math ability and verbal skills. To test number sense, researchers flashed groups of differentlycolored dots on a computer screen, in a manner that was similar to this online test. The children had to estimate which color was dominant, with the dots disappearing too quickly to be counted. Their ability to correctly estimate the color with the most dots over a series of tests provided researchers with their number sense.
Math skills were tested by means of a standardized test focused on basic math concepts. These included simple counting, comparing numbers, addition and subtraction. For verbal skills, the parents or guardians of the children were provided with a list of words. The researchers asked the adults to note which words they'd heard their child use before. The verbal test enabled the researchers to filter out those children who simply performed at a higher level on all tasks, as well as those children who proved to be more gifted test takers.
Lingering Questions
The results of this study beg questions that only further research may begin to answer. It challenges the previously held notion that varying qualities in math instruction influence number sense. Instead, it may be that children who are born with a stronger number sense find simple math skills easier, thereby giving them an advantage once formal math training begins. Likewise, it could indicate that children who are born with a weaker number sense intuitively shy away from mathbased activities before they can even begin to get comfortable.
Other Articles You May Be Interested In

Imagine a math teaching tool so effective that it need only be employed twice per week for less than an hour to result in huge proficiency gains. Impossible, you say? Not so...and MIND Research Institute has the virtual penguin to prove it.

Should kindergartners put away the building blocks and open the math books? According to recent research, earlier is better when it comes to learning mathematical concepts. But that could put undue pressure on kids, parents and even teachers.
We Found 7 Tutors You Might Be Interested In
Huntington Learning
 What Huntington Learning offers:
 Online and incenter tutoring
 One on one tutoring
 Every Huntington tutor is certified and trained extensively on the most effective teaching methods
K12
 What K12 offers:
 Online tutoring
 Has a strong and effective partnership with public and private schools
 AdvancEDaccredited corporation meeting the highest standards of educational management
Kaplan Kids
 What Kaplan Kids offers:
 Online tutoring
 Customized learning plans
 RealTime Progress Reports track your child's progress
Kumon
 What Kumon offers:
 Incenter tutoring
 Individualized programs for your child
 Helps your child develop the skills and study habits needed to improve their academic performance
Sylvan Learning
 What Sylvan Learning offers:
 Online and incenter tutoring
 Sylvan tutors are certified teachers who provide personalized instruction
 Regular assessment and progress reports
Tutor Doctor
 What Tutor Doctor offers:
 InHome tutoring
 One on one attention by the tutor
 Develops personlized programs by working with your child's existing homework
TutorVista
 What TutorVista offers:
 Online tutoring
 Student works oneonone with a professional tutor
 Using the virtual whiteboard workspace to share problems, solutions and explanations