By: Daniel Glaser | Why the human brain can do the maths | Daniel Glaser | Neuroscience | The Guardian
Britain’s recent success on the international maths scene is thanks to geniuses with highly developed cortical machinery, says Daniel Glaser
In some welcome news about our much lambasted education system, Britain has come top in its group at the International Mathematical Olympiad.
Maths is not a longstanding skill in evolutionary terms, although we do have a rudimentary ability to recognise small numbers of items, which is probably shared with some animals. This skill, known as subitising, means we can ‘know’ simply by looking at a small group of dots how many there are. This involves a direct perception of quantity; anything above six becomes more difficult. Higher mathematical ability, however, is peculiarly human and relies on highly developed cortical machinery.