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# Is Math A Built In Language? Are you born with it

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Do you think math is a language that we are all born with?I mean look at it like this: Math is always math regardless of whether you have the ability to speak it or write it.You know that 1 group of stones is large than another group of stones. That is math.Native american indians hunted areas of buffalo that were in greater numbers because they knew their chances of getting more kills were more likely than hunting a smaller pack. That is math.A plant forms in space and is round, that is math. A circle or sphere is the path of least resistance or most efficient use of space. That is math.I believe we are all born with a built in knowledge of math, at least the basics, addition and subtraction.Do you agree?

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I think this is cold be justifiable for everything. The "blah! blah! wah! wee!" screams of the baby -- language. Everything around us -- science. "I should do this, not that" -- early philosophy. And the list goes on. So, you can ask "Is Language/Science/Philosophy a built in Thing?". But the real thing about "math" is that when you look at the planets, you don't KNOW that they are ROUND, ONLY when you know what "round" is, your mind generalizes it as "round". And the "native american killing buffalo thing" ? They probably learnt it like all ANIMALS do, trail and error. They might have NOTICED that when they go in the group, they get more kills. Even all animals do that... ants and lions... so do lions do math? I don't think so.

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No ...but i do think animals might have some sense of it cuase when they do maybe mating calls they do it like robots like every fine minutes they will do a call or something

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No. Maths is much more than simple pattern recognition and basic arithmetic. Maths has evolved. You need a coherent system of representation which is self-consistent. One dictionary definition would be

The study of the measurement, properties, and relationships of quantities and sets, using numbers and symbols.

Now, we need to beware such definitions as they are always reductive, but this is a reasonable starting point. Simple recognising patterns is not the same as doing mathematics - it is a start, for sure, so you could say that we seem to be born with certain abilities which are precursors for mathematics...

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Well Math is not defined as geometry or calculus...I still say we are born with a natural knowledge of it. Advanced math and higher math, well that is a different story. But why then is math the one true universal language. I may speak english, but I can tell you that a russian, chinese and african will know what I am saying when I write 1 + 1 = 2 on a chalkboard, or rather I + II = III.Don't you think that if there were another race of beings near here and we were to meet, that math would be the only common language that we would have?

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Maths is more than just recognising patterns, as I said. It is a language with syntax/grammar. People are born with an ability to do some basic pattern recognition but I don't think that extends to having a natural grasp of mathematics (except perhaps in some rare cases). A russian may not know what 1+1=2 means (OK, they probably would, but an alien wouldn't). You would have to start with a definition of symbols - how would they know that 1 mean 'unit' and 2 meant two such units (let alone knowing the meaning of the plus and equal signs)?I think that you may be getting at the issue of whether maths is a construct or whether it is part of the universe - which is a very deep question. The two poles of that argument are known as the Realism school (mathematics exists distinct from humans in its own right - we discover maths, not invent it) and the Social Constructivism school (mathematics is a construct of humans and mathematical objects have no external existence - we invent maths, not discover it). Within those two extremes are various other viewpoints such as the Logical school (they assert that all mathematics can be reduced to logic), Platonic school (mathematical objects are eternal and unchanging), Empirical school (maths has to be deduced by experiment/research, and it is impossible to know 'a-priori' ie before you work it out by example) & Formalism (maths is just the result of setting certain rules (axioms) - it is a game that changes as you change the rules).It is possible to make a convincing argument for any of these. The Realist says - pythagoras' theorem is always true and therefore pythagoras didn't invent it, he discovered it. The Constructivist retorts 'untrue...show me a single example of an exact triangle in nature. There are non - it is a human invention'. The formalist says 'given that we construct certain axioms (euclid) then pythagoras is a naturally emerging result of those axioms'.

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I see what this is all about and yes, I think we all are born with some basic skills but that's just the way everyone is. Call it evolution or something else, but it's "built-in". But calling those skills Maths may not be totally right. Maths is something which is way more advanced and complex.Then what do you call these basic skills that we're born with? Hmm, need to think about it for a while.

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I see what this is all about and yes, I think we all are born with some basic skills but that's just the way everyone is. Call it evolution or something else, but it's "built-in". But calling those skills Maths may not be totally right. Maths is something which is way more advanced and complex.Then what do you call these basic skills that we're born with? Hmm, need to think about it for a while.

Spatial reasoning, pattern recognition and basic number awareness.
There is some evidence that babies posses an inate sense of number

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Well Math is not defined as geometry or calculus...I still say we are born with a natural knowledge of it. Advanced math and higher math, well that is a different story. But why then is math the one true universal language. I may speak english, but I can tell you that a russian, chinese and african will know what I am saying when I write 1 + 1 = 2 on a chalkboard, or rather I + II = III.

Don't you think that if there were another race of beings near here and we were to meet, that math would be the only common language that we would have?

first you are talk about how math is a built in language for human beings, and you go further by stating that math is the one true universal language?

i say no, and NO to both. i am sorry, but if i was born and lefvt to survive on my own, i would not know what I+II=III means. that is just ridiculous thinking buddy. what you are actually trying to say is that math is needed for our survival, that's why it's built in, and again you would be wrong.

humans don't have anything "built in" for our survival except for maybe our complex body system where everything just seems to work together mysteriously but humans don't have natural insticts for survival and that is what you are trying to call math when you relate it to indians and their own survival for food. no buddy. everything is taught to us by others or it's trial and error plain and simple.

even the pure basics are taught. i don't know about you, but if someone didn't teach me the equation 1+1=2, i wouldn't have ever known. sure, i would be able to tell the difference between objects and know that one pile is bigger than the other, but without being taught, i certainly wouldn't call it math. i would call it observation because 1+1=2 would mean absolutely NOTHING to me unless i was taught that equation.

don't confuse math with "common sense" and even though what you are talking about is common sense, not everyone has it. it's called common sense because most people are able to relate to which of the piles are bigger. in some senses, other people wont be able to or to even know that if you hunt where the bigger herds are, you are more likely to get more kills.

so even though what you are talking about is common sense and relating it to simple math, common sense is not limited to just math. if you can say that math is a built in language and also a universal one, i can say that knowing to eat food when i am hungry is something that is built in.....and if i were to say that, then i would also be wrong. it's just plain common sense either after being taught how to satisfy my hunger, or by trial and error.

i am editing this post so i don't double post. i just reread your original post and i want to tell you that i find it kind of humourous and i will tell you why. your whole post including the title revolves around math being something that is built in to us. but in your recond line, you state this... "Math is always math regardless of whether you have the ability to speak it or write it." surely you don't mean that we understand math(even the pure basics) even if we can't read or write it. so let me ask you something.....

let's say you were born and someone left you on an island all by yourself. and lets go further and state you have all the necesities for your survival even if you don't know how to use those necesities. my question is, what will you be doing that involves this built in math of yours? anything that is "built in" serves a purpose. i am sure there can be arguements against what i just said, but for the most part, anything "built in" in life(plants/animals/humans/etc...) serves a purpose and i want to know how math serves a purpose for survival

sure we all use math, and sure, we can LEARN to use math without knowing it's math, but what is the purpose of math in relation to survival? if a baby can't even put a square block in a square hole, how the heck is this baby going to use this built in math??? or are you going to say that although math is "built in", it doesn't kick in until a certain age? and just because a baby will try to put a round peg in a square hole doesn't mean the baby is stupid. it's only stupid if you compare that baby with someone who has learned geometry and honed in on their observational skills. and sure....those stupid little toys use math and we give them to babies because they are baby toys to LEARN math even though the baby doesn't even know it's math they are learning. but are they really learning math? are they going to measure how big the square or circle is? no! they are just going to learn how to observe better through trial and error and while trying to put the triangle where the circle should go. babies observation skills SUCK so even a baby wont be able to use math even in regards to observing what we call common sense AFTER we learn the differences of what we are observing.

but anyway, i got off my point. i just think it's funny how you can state how math is a universal language and built in to us after stating "regardless if people can speak or write it". math is "math" because it has been defined. not because it's built in to human beings.

someone might.....MIGHT understand that I+II=III through observation, but since we aren't talking about observation, but MATH, let me ask you if they can fill in the blank using I+II=______. without ever being taught and without any so called trial and error, would that someone be able to fill in that blank? i used your same formula. i just illiminated the observation aspect of the math problem.

bikerman- all that link you gave shows is that babies react differently to changes in the environment. in no way shape or form does that remotely prove or suggest that babies can count or use #'s or even know the difference between 1 and 2 at the age of 3 months old. that would be funny if i thought for one second someone reading that would believe in it when there are so many other possibilities that make more sense.
Edited by anwiii (see edit history)

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So you are saying that Math was just handed down to us out of the sky?Even cavemen understand basic math. They knew as hunter gathers that they needed to get enough food to feed everyone in their clan/family/cave, a more or less scenario, which is math. So yes it is needed for survival in some respects. Not off the wall thinking at all.Math had to have come from somewhere. Or else we never would have developed it into a more complex language. Just as we are all capable of language when we are born.We are born with basic survival skills: language (communication), math (deduction), and movement (gathering) not in any particular order of course.

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So you are saying that Math was just handed down to us out of the sky?Even cavemen understand basic math. They knew as hunter gathers that they needed to get enough food to feed everyone in their clan/family/cave, a more or less scenario, which is math. So yes it is needed for survival in some respects. Not off the wall thinking at all.

Math had to have come from somewhere. Or else we never would have developed it into a more complex language. Just as we are all capable of language when we are born.

We are born with basic survival skills: language (communication), math (deduction), and movement (gathering) not in any particular order of course.

You are just bringing your original question again, what you just said as your example is just common sense, like anwiii put it. It doesn't really involve any "basic" math in it. This just something that makes us "alive". Being "Alive" doesn't just mean having blood flowing and your heart pumping, its those things COMBINED it it. If you didn't do these common sense things, you will just be dummy.

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bikerman- all that link you gave shows is that babies react differently to changes in the environment. in no way shape or form does that remotely prove or suggest that babies can count or use #'s or even know the difference between 1 and 2 at the age of 3 months old. that would be funny if i thought for one second someone reading that would believe in it when there are so many other possibilities that make more sense.

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I disagree. I think this and other research shows something deeper.

I'll try to dig out another study which showed that babies responded to flash cards with different numbers of dots/shapes in a way which seems to indicate they can tell 'less' and 'more'. Of course it doesn't necessarily mean they can count or use numbers, it simply might indicate that there is some processing that is later lost and which allows a baby to tell which of two piles has the most in it. It might mean much more, though...

This is not such a startling proposition as it might sound. We know that there is specialised hard-wiring in the brain of babies which allows the acquisition of language and that this wiring is later 're-wired' for other things, so if a child does not acquire language before that key point (somewhere around 5-6 yrs) then they never acquire fluency in language..

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I don't think the evidence is conclusive, but it is interesting.

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http://www.dana.org/Publications/Brainwork/Details.aspx?id=43762

http://scienceblogs.com/thoughtfulanimal/2010/08/17/what-are-the-origins-of-number/

https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17264-babies-understand-numbers-as-abstract-concepts-/

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So you are saying that Math was just handed down to us out of the sky?Even cavemen understand basic math. They knew as hunter gathers that they needed to get enough food to feed everyone in their clan/family/cave, a more or less scenario, which is math. So yes it is needed for survival in some respects. Not off the wall thinking at all.

No it isn't. Maths involves using symbols and numbers to investigate - not simply recognising quantity.

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So you are saying that Math was just handed down to us out of the sky?Even cavemen understand basic math. They knew as hunter gathers that they needed to get enough food to feed everyone in their clan/family/cave, a more or less scenario, which is math. So yes it is needed for survival in some respects. Not off the wall thinking at all.

Math had to have come from somewhere. Or else we never would have developed it into a more complex language. Just as we are all capable of language when we are born.

We are born with basic survival skills: language (communication), math (deduction), and movement (gathering) not in any particular order of course.

now you want a history lesson on where math comes from? that isn't even what the topic you started is about. it's about if math is a built in language and if we are born with it. i have CLEARLY stated my thoughts on this issue. now you are trying to change the subject by trying to ask where math originated from. unlike other animals, we don't have natural survival skills. language is not a survival skill first of all. plus, we are not born knowing any language. math is not a survival skill. give one good example if you think it is. movement is not a survival skill for human beings. movement and language MAY be a survival skill for other species, but it isn't for human beings. also, let's not get off topic. your topic is about math so lets talk about math and i want YOU to give me examples of how math is needed to survive and give me examples that don't have anything to do with being taught math or common sense observations like "one pile is bigger than another pile and that is math".

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Logic is a built in language. Logic, in the scientific sense that1 + 1 = 2.10 / 5 = 2.The general, addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication that doesn't take any advanced thought or conscious development to recognize, I classify as "Mathematical Logic" and is built in. Why do we know this? Small children are able to count using their fingers, and uneducated people of the world survive with Mathematical Logic. I think the math that you're talking about, is logical math. Moving forward from there, are extrapolations made by man kind. I use the word "Extrapolations" because they were all based off of these Logical Math principals, and using them, the noted minds of the past have taken steps forward in explaining other occurrences that could be tied to such Math. A good example is calculus. Newton's initiation of our Calculus movement could be seen as postulations. That crazy alchemist began trying to quantify graphical patters we see in our world. Now that kind of postulation in Mathematics, which we still call "Maths" where I believe it belongs in a different category entirely from logical math, isn't inbuilt. The Arithmetic comes naturally, and everything after that, I believe, requires a good level of thought or education to arrive to, education being the easier of the two methods @ AnwiiI don't think it's ridiculous to think that a forest born human being "Alpha" wouldn't know that 1 orange plus two oranges gives him three oranges. In saying so, you refuse to acknowledge that if a person has 2 apples and 1 is stolen, he would notice one is missing. Of course, our ways of representing Maths might not be recognized, as in your example: "| + || = |||" Might be hard to understand because "Alpha" the barbarian doesn't know what + or = means, and the |'s are irrelevant to his practical life. But that doesn't mean he doesn't have basic mathematical logic. He won't tell you how to find the arclength of a polar curve, of course, but that's because that's not fundamental mathematics. I also disagree on the account that basic math isn't a survival skill. But I guess that depends heavily upon what we define as basic math, as can be seen above, it seems my interpretation of the phrase refers to the extreme fundamentals of recognizing quantity.

Edited by Okara KAmi (see edit history)

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