Language and math are important tools that allow humans to better understand the world around them, and communicate with one another. Some cognitive scientists are interested in learning more about how children develop language skills and conceptions about basic math principles, and how the development of math and language skills in early childhood might be interrelated.
Remembering where things are in space and communicating to others where to find them are important skills that we need in our everyday lives. We can remember the location of things from our own perspective (to my left), by their proximity to other objects (next to the chair), or even using compass directions (on the south side). We are interested in how children typically remember locations and directions, and whether or not some spatial relationships are easier to remember than others.
In our study, children watch as we hide a coin in one of three cups. Then they turn to face a second table, where they see three more cups in the exact same arrangement. We ask them to find the coin in the same cup. But which one is the “same” one? During one part of the study, children must use the landmarks in the room to find the coin (e.g., in the cup closest to the window). During another part, they must use the positions of the cups relative to their own bodies (e.g., the cup on their left). We want to know if one of these strategies is easier for children to learn than the other. In order to find out, we’ll measure how quickly children learn where to look for the coin.
This study will help us understand how children begin to understand the spatial relationships between objects, and how they learn the meanings of spatial words like "left" and "right" or "north" and "south".
Learn about other research related to Math and Language Cognition.
This research is conducted by the Laboratory for Developmental Studies at Harvard University