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.
As adults, we use geometric properties (like distance, direction, and angle) to recognize objects and navigate through the world. Research suggests that children may have an intuitive understanding of some types of geometric properties, even before they learn about them in school. In this study, we are investigating whether children understand the concepts of distance, direction, and angle in 2D and 3D objects.
In this study, 2-4 year-olds play a hiding and finding game. We show children a shape on a tabletop (for example, a triangle), and we show them where “Mr. Bear” likes to sit (for example, the far corner of the triangle). Then, we cover the tabletop and rotate it, so that the shape is facing in a different direction. When we uncover the tabletop again, we ask children to put Mr. Bear back in his favorite place. Children play this game several times, with different 2D or 3D shapes.
We want to find out whether children can accurately place Mr. Bear in the shape after it is rotated. To do this, they have to distinguish either the angles in the shape, or the relative position of the bear (near vs. far, to the right vs. left) compared to the parts of the shape.
This study will help us explain how children begin to understand geometrical properties, and at what ages they are able to use different cues to locate objects in their environment.
Learn about other research related to Math and Language Cognition.
This research is conducted by the Laboratory for Developmental Studies at Harvard University