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The Number Sense: How the Mind Creates Mathematics, Revised and Updated Edition [Paperback]

by Stanislas Dehaene
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 29, 2011 0199753873 978-0199753871 Rev Upd
Our understanding of how the human brain performs mathematical calculations is far from complete, but in recent years there have been many exciting breakthroughs by scientists all over the world. Now, in The Number Sense, Stanislas Dehaene offers a fascinating look at this recent research, in an enlightening exploration of the mathematical mind. Dehaene begins with the eye-opening discovery that animals--including rats, pigeons, raccoons, and chimpanzees--can perform simple mathematical calculations, and that human infants also have a rudimentary number sense. Dehaene suggests that this rudimentary number sense is as basic to the way the brain understands the world as our perception of color or of objects in space, and, like these other abilities, our number sense is wired into the brain. These are but a few of the wealth of fascinating observations contained here. We also discover, for example, that because Chinese names for numbers are so short, Chinese people can remember up to nine or ten digits at a time--English-speaking people can only remember seven. The book also explores the unique abilities of idiot savants and mathematical geniuses, and we meet people whose minute brain lesions render their mathematical ability useless. This new and completely updated edition includes all of the most recent scientific data on how numbers are encoded by single neurons, and which brain areas activate when we perform calculations. Perhaps most important, The Number Sense reaches many provocative conclusions that will intrigue anyone interested in learning, mathematics, or the mind.

"A delight."
--Ian Stewart, New Scientist

"Read The Number Sense for its rich insights into matters as varying as the cuneiform depiction of numbers, why Jean Piaget's theory of stages in infant learning is wrong, and to discover the brain regions involved in the number sense."
--The New York Times Book Review

"Dehaene weaves the latest technical research into a remarkably lucid and engrossing investigation. Even readers normally indifferent to mathematics will find themselves marveling at the wonder of minds making numbers."
--Booklist

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Editorial Reviews

Review


"Read The Number Sense for its rich insights into matters as varying as the cuneiform depiction of numbers, why Jean Piaget's theory of stages in infant learning is wrong, and to discover the brain regions involved in the number sense."--The New York Times Book Review


"From the origin of Roman numerals to the latest MRI results, everything you might like to know about numbers and the brain, as filtered through the lively and engaging brain of Stanislas Dehaene."--Discover


"A delight."--Ian Stewart, New Scientist


"Whether he is explaining how this neural macherinery begins its numerical magic early in infancy, how it attains the sophistication required for complex calculations, or how it misfires when the brain suffers certain types of injuries, Dehaene weaves the latest technical research into a remarkably lucid and engrossing investigation. Even readers normally indifferent to mathematics will find themselves marveling at the wonder of minds making numbers."--Booklist


"This interesting and informative book sets forth the latest findings by Dehaene and other psychologists trying to determine how the brain understands and manipulates numbers and other forms of mathematical information. Included are many startling results of experiments involving animals and infants that shed light on the extent and nature of our inborn number sense. These findings, if they receive the consideration they merit, should have a major impact on the way mathematics is taught at the elementary and secondary level. Highly recommended."--Library Journal (starred review)


"This may surprise those who have trouble carrying the remainder in division or figuring out a 15 percent tip on a $20 lunch bill, but according to mathematician and psychologist Stanislas Dehaene, mathematics is an inborn skill. In The Number Sense, Dehaene makes a compelling case for the human mind's innate grasp of mathematics. Dehaene's book is filled with examples to support his thesis, from young babies' ability to "count" (i.e., to react when single objects are replaced by two or more) to examples of how brain damage affects various individuals' number sense. Even more fascinating is his discussion of the relationship between language and numbers. Though Dehaene's book is about mathematics, even those readers with the worst math anxiety will find The Number Sense an intriguing exploration of the world of numbers--and the human mind." -Amazon.com Review


"In this lively and readable book, Dehaene integrates the latest scientific evidence on how numbers are represented in the brains of animals and humans, then relates this knowledge to the challenges of early mathematics education. Dehaene is masterful in his ability to explain complex scientific findings in a manner that will be accessible to any audience. His writing is clear, and his examples are fascinating, taking us through the worlds of animal mathematicians, idiot savants, newborn infants, and split-brain patients, all as a means of understanding our innate sense of number."--Jim Stigler, Professor of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles


"It is now possible to see the human brain as it listens, reads, communicates and calculates. The Number Sense describes recent exciting findings on how the brain calculates. In a clear and exciting way it provides the needed background to understand both the innate endowment of numeracy and what may be necessary to acquire the skills of mathematics. For psychologists, neuroscientists, educators and all who work with number, this book is of basic importance."--Mike Posner, Professor of Psychology, Department of Cognitive and Decision Sciences, University of Oregon


"Dehaene's study of new brain imaging techniques, idiot savants, and mathematical prodigies illustrates humankind's innate ability to comprehend numberical data."--Science News


"Is number sense innate or learnt? A bit of both? How do our brains do math, anyway? And where did the ability come from? Stanislas Dehaene, a mathematician who became a neuroscientist, is uniquely qualified to answer such questions, and The Number Sense is a delight."--Ian Stewart, New Scientist


"In The Number Sense, Dehaene makes a convincing case, based on many experiments with rats, dolphins, chimpanzees and very young infants, that the ability to do what he calls "fuzzy counting" is hardwired into the brain. He even posits a very convincing neural machanism for this ability, an analog accumulator that keeps approximate track of objects, events, even sounds."--Lucy Horwitz, The Boston Book Review


"Read The Number Sense for its rich insights into matters as varying as the cuneiform depiction of numbers, why Jean Piaget's theory of stages in infant learning is wrong, and to discover the brain regions involved in the number sense."--Steven Rose, New York Times Book Review


"The first edition of The Number Sense was widely praised for its comprehensive
treatment of an important area of research and theory. No better book has emerged since
then... Dehaene provides readers who are new to the area with an excellent overview of the topic." -- Gordon Pitz, Adjunct Professor of Psychology at University of North Carolina, PsychCRITIQUES


About the Author


Stanislas Dehaene teaches at the College de France and is Director of the Cognitive Neuroimaging Research Unit at INSERM.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA; Rev Upd edition (April 29, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199753873
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199753871
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #288,420 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Stanislas Dehaene is a French psychologist and cognitive neuroscientist. He is currently heading the Cognitive NeuroImaging Unit within the NeuroSpin building of the Commissariat A l'Energie Atomique in Saclay near Paris, France's most advanced brain imaging center. He is also a professor at College de France in Paris, where he holds the newly created chair of Experimental Cognitive Psychology. In 2005, he was elected as the youngest member of the French Academy of Sciences.

Stanislas Dehaene's interests concern the brain mechanisms of specifically human cognitive functions such as language, calculation, and conscious reasoning. His research relies on a variety of experimental methods, including mental chronometry in normal subjects, cognitive analyses of brain-lesioned patients, and brain-imaging studies with positron emission tomography, functional magnetic resonance imaging, and high-density recordings of event-related potentials. Formal models of minimal neuronal networks are also devised and simulated in an attempt to throw some links between molecular, physiological, imaging, and behavioral data.

Stanislas Dehaene's main scientific contributions include the study of the organization of the cerebral system for number processing. Using converging evidence from PET, ERPs, fMRI, and brain lesions, Stanislas Dehaene demonstrated the central role played by a region of the intraparietal sulcus in understanding quantities and arithmetic (the "number sense"). He was also the first to demonstrate that subliminal presentations of words can yield detectable cortical activations in fMRI, and has used these data to support an original theory of conscious and nonconscious processing in the human brain. With neurologist Laurent Cohen, he studied the neural networks of reading and demonstrated the crucial role of the left occipito-temporal region in word recognition (the "visual word form area").

Stanislas Dehaene is the author of over 190 scientific publications in major international journals. He has received several international prizes including the McDonnell Centennial Fellowship, the Louis D prize of the French Academy of Sciences (with D. Lebihan), and the Heineken prize in Cognitive Science from the Royal Academy of the Netherlands. He has published an acclaimed book The number sense, which has been translated in eight languages, and is publishing a new book Reading in the brain, to appear in November 2009. He has also edited three books on brain imaging, consciousness, and brain evolution, and has authored two general-audience documentaries on the human brain.

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
(12)
4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How number is perceived and manipulated May 2, 2011
Format:Paperback
The last twenty years have seen the rapid development of research on numerical cognition, and there is no one better to introduce it than Dehaene, a cognitive neuroscientist who has been at the experimental and theoretical center of it all. In this book, Dehaene introduces the respective numerical capacities of animals, infants, and adults (both healthy and impaired). He uses these fascinating studies to develop a theory of innate "number sense", sharpened by symbolic processing in educated humans. Throughout, Dehaene convincingly takes on personalities of researcher, educator, and philosopher, while taking us from chimpanzees to split-brain patients to isolated Amazonian villages. As a neuroscientist, I found the book most valuable for its comprehensive review of the literature of this subfield, however Dehaene was equally comfortable discussing educational and mathematical philosophy.

Unfortunately, this second edition comes across as a little disjointed. The fifteen years since the first edition's publication has seen an exponential growth in research, the vast majority of which supports Dehaene's contention. However, instead of bolstering the foundation of the book, Dehaene has settled on appending these studies into an additional chapter. Thus, the majority of the book comes across as a little dated and thin (e.g. older PET studies), with the majority of experimental evidence rifled through in one chapter. The book still makes for an informative read, if not quite as enjoyable as it could have been.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great book on numerical cognition December 27, 2013
By Jorge
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
If you are interested on numerical cognition research this book is a must. Additionally, it provides applicable knowledge to improve mathematical abilities. I Highly recommend it.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Number Sense July 21, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Every teacher should read this book. Young people would enjoy math if more teachers knew how to make it fun. It should be required reading during teacher's training.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good November 3, 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book was required in my course. It is really informative and enjoyable to read. It provides a strong back ground how human being thinks about math.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Important Research which refocuses math teaching September 10, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
It was very nice to see this update on Kindle. Now we have an updated repeat of this important research.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dyscalculia April 25, 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Comprehensive overview of literature on the topic of how the brain manages mathematical concepts. This updated edition gives a brief but direct explanation of dyscalculia, and some direction for treatment.

This is a gifted author, drawing together vast amounts of research and presenting it in a way the average, interested person can comprehend.

Equally enlightening is Dehaene's READING IN THE BRAIN.
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