What children know about biology, what animals know about numbers and computation

Maciej Haman

Contemporary academic maths and biology seem to be artefacts invented along thousands years of the formation of human civilisation, enormously accelerated during last two centuries. However illiterate tribe people, very young children, or even animals, also need some abilities to perform simple computations, to classify biological beings, to predict their behaviour, or the outcomes of biological processes. In this paper I am going to review what is known about early computational abilities, to the large extend common for many vertebrates, human infants as well as both literate and illiterate adults, and what is known about early perceptual and conceptual mechanisms which may promote the formation of more advanced biological classifications and understanding of biological processes. I am going to show behavioural phenomena, their neural bases, as well some interesting formal aspects. Finally I am going to argue for at least partial continuity between these very basic cognitive abilities and sophisticated academic science, and to show some simple ways to exploit them in designing early science education.

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