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Chimpanzees, salamanders, mosquitofishes, newborn chicks, and many other animals can deal with numbers. Very young human babies too can discriminate between varied amounts even when they don’t know a language.

Therefore, for a long time now, we have been associating this numerical cognition as an evidence of a biological drive that we share with other species. However, Rafael Nunez, a cognitive scientist, says that it is not.

He supposes that part of the issue is confused terminology. He says that there is a difference between amount and number, between perceiving relative quantity of things and doing math. We and non-human animals can tell apart “many” and “some”. But numbers require a symbolic system and the frame of culture, he says.

Throughout history, most humans worked just with "natural quantifiers" until there raised a requirement to make actual counts of commodities, he says. Brain-imaging research shows that native speakers of English and native speakers of Chinese process the same Arabic numerals in varied sections of their brains. This suggests that culture and language influence even which neurons are employed to handle numbers, he says.

These findings have implications in neuroscience to provide solutions in education.

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