Science has just confirmed what you've been trying to convince your parents and teachers since grade school: Some people are just born good at math.
Researchers found that preschoolers (who because of their young age have not yet learned basic math) who have a good inherent "number sense" ALSO do better on tests that predict mathematical ability.
"Number sense" is a primitive and inborn sense that, for example, helps you determine at a glance how many people are in a movie theater.
Study researcher Melissa Libertus of Johns Hopkins University said in a statement:
The relationship between 'number sense' and math ability is important and intriguing because we believe that 'number sense' is universal, whereas math ability has been thought to be highly dependent on culture and language and takes many years to learn.
Therefore, a link between "number sense" and math ability opens up the question of whether you can improve future mathematical ability by improving number sense, Libertus said.
Researchers tested number sense, verbal ability and mathematical ability of 200 4-year-olds, according to the study, published in the journal Developmental Science.
To test the kids' number sense, researchers had them take a test where an image of blue and yellow dots grouped together was flashed on a computer screen. The images flashed so quickly that the children didn't have a chance to count them (plus, some of them were so young that their counting abilities still weren't super fast). The kids were asked to determine which there were more of -- the blue dots or the yellow dots.
Then, the kids were also given standardized mathematical and verbal ability tests, where they had to do things like count, compare number values and read numbers. Researchers found that the kids who did the best on the number sense test also did the best on the math ability test.
But the association between number sense and actually doing well in math is still just that -- an association.
It's not clear, for example, whether kids with good number sense simply have an easier time learning math and thus do well in school. Or whether children with less-than-impressive number sense simply end up avoiding math-related activities early on, leading to poorer performance in school from lack of practice.
You can take the number sense test for yourself, here.