### Available:*

Library | Call Number | Material Type | Home Location | Status | Item Holds |
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Searching... | QA141.5 .B786 1999 | Adult Non-Fiction | Central Closed Stacks | Searching... | Searching... |

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### Summary

### Summary

Though he admits to not being particularly good at math, Butterworth (cognitive neuropsychology, U. College, London), the founder of the Mathematical Cognition journal, contends that we all possess an inherent "numerosity" sense--developed to different degrees of course. The author bases his case on empirical research and historical speculation. Annotation copyrighted by Book News, Inc., Portland, OR

### Reviews 2

### Publisher's Weekly Review

Are our brains "hardwired" to count and conceptualize numbers, or are counting, and other mathematical activities something that we learn, like playing the piano? Butterworth, editor of the journal Mathematical Cognition, is convinced that evidence points to the existence of circuits in the brain devoted to identifying what he calls "numerosities," or, more simply, the number of objects in a collection of things. To this network of specialized circuits, or "Number Module," Butterworth explains, each person adds the mathematical knowledge of his or her culture. Thus, people who "aren't good in math" have trouble not because they're dumb or not applying themselves, but because their Number Module is different from the prevailing one. Not surprisingly, Butterworth has strong views on how to teach mathematics, and these form a prominent part of his book. He also shows how a person's brain can change to devote more resources to respond to mathematical stimuli. For example, a study of Braille proofreaders based on brain-scan maps has demonstrated that the part of the brain devoted to this activity grows in size after six hours work. But give the proofreaders a few days off, and their brains shrink back to normal. Butterworth's prose is marred by repetition, and his digressions to explain various well-known math puzzles and peculiarities, such as Pascal's triangle, often aren't germane to his argument (do we really need a proof of Gdel's theorem here?). But these are minor caveats about a provocative book that makes an important addition to the recent flurry of titles regarding how our minds work. Teachers as well as readers curious about the brain and psychology will be challenged by the ideas expounded here. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

### Choice Review

Is mathematics purely a social construct? Butterworth resoundingly says "no." He starts his argument from a historical and anthropological perspective to show that all peoples in all times have made use of some form of cardinal and ordinal arithmetic. He then proceeds through psychological studies of infants and apes to show that at least some sense of number is innate. Psychological and neurological studies of people with various disabilities allow him to tease out the basic number process and to locate it in the left parietal lobe of the brain. This basic process is insufficient for more complicated mathematics; higher mathematics has to be constructed on top of this simple base. The ways in which various people create or construct mathematical methods leads to a discussion of teaching mathematics; this discussion is the weakest part of the book because it ignores most of the work that has been done in the instructional area. Butterworth finishes by discussing infinity and G"odel's theorem. The results in this important book will interest all those who teach or try to understand mathematics. General readers; undergraduates through professionals. P. Cull; Oregon State University