Elizabeth Spelke

Harvard University

Core Knowledge of Number and Geometry

2:00 – 3:00pm Wednesday, December 05, 2007

This is part of the Session 6: Cognitive Processes which begins at 14:00 on Wednesday December 5, 2007

Formal mathematics is a cultural and historical invention, passed from adults to most children through extensive formal instruction. Nevertheless, mathematics builds on systems of knowledge that emerge independently of instruction or culture. Studies of human infants and nonhuman primates can tell us about the properties of those "core systems" and their interactions. Studies of children at the brink of formal schooling suggest how those systems are harnessed to permit learning of symbolic mathematics.

Elizabeth Spelke teaches at Harvard University, where she is Professor of Psychology and Co-Director of the Mind, Brain, and Behavior Initiative. She studies the origins and nature of knowledge of objects, persons, space, and number, by assessing behavior and brain function in human infants, children, human adults and non-human animals. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and was cited by Time Magazine as one of America's Best in Science and Medicine, her honors include the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award of the American Psychological Association and the William James Award of the American Psychological Society.