Is Geometry Innate?

From MathWiki

A discussion about whether or not our spatial sense in innate. Based upon an article I recently read called "Hunter-Gatherers Grasp Geometry" and a book called "Sexing the Brain". Do humans already have a knowledge of geometry in their minds simply from their daily experiences of the world or do we need the knowledge gained from formal Education?


Since discussing the question, "Is geometry innate?" with our learning group for this MATH 4000 course, Professor Whiteley passed off an article for me to read called "Hunter-Gatherers Grasp geometry" which can be found in the journal called SCIENCE (VOL 311, 20 January 2006) www.sciencemag.org


A team of scientists, led by cognitive scientist Stanislas Dehaene of the College de Francein Paris, tested children and adults in an Amazonian group called the Munduruku to see if geometry is in fact innate. They found that "even without education, and living in isolation without artifacts such as maps, you can have a developed geometrical intuition."


Leslie Rogers, in her book entitled "Sexing the Brain" (1999) claims a similar finding as she states, "spatial ability really is genetically determined, as many scentists believe..." (Rogers, 37)


I have been thinking about a few questions lately (perhaps, not all of these are directly related to the above mentioned articles and book, but none-the-less they are on my mind)


  • Is spatial ability a concept which is taught through experience of the world around us, therefore, in order to teach it in schools we much employ physical, hands-on and kinestetic lessons in order to actually teach this skill properly?
  • IS there a proper way to teach children to be better at geometry?
  • What does a good visual respresentation/lesson/presentation look like?
  • How do our experiences, as in the case of the Munduruku's people from the study mentioned about, affect our sense of spatial ability and geometry?
  • Do cultures which are oral in tradition (such as the Native Canadians) have a hightened sense of spatial ability because from childhood they have had to visualize the traditions and stories told to them by their elders?
  • What about cultures which give children an OVER load of visual information (such as video games and pop culture) - does this help/hinder the natural development of their visual/spatial abilities?

Comments and responses are welcomed!

Links