Question Sheet: Wired for Math
Before reading:
 When do you think that you started to understand how to add numbers? What
helped you to learn how to add?
 Why do you think that some people are better at math than other people are?
During reading:
 Elizabeth Spelke says, "Our brains seem to come equipped with systems for
estimating amounts and doing arithmetic." Explain why she makes this statement.
 Why is Spelke interested in learning about children's "inborn sense of
number"?
 What does it mean that "a number is a symbol"? Give two examples.
 What evidence did the researchers have to conclude that young children are
able to "add and compare amounts"?
 Why do Spelke and her team conclude that a child's sense of number is not
dependent on language?
 What do young children have a particularly hard time learning?
After reading:
 Design an experiment, giving some sample problems, that would provide
additional information about the ability of young children to estimate amounts.
 Do you think that kids who are particularly good estimators are also better
at math in school? Why or why not?
 Spelke and her coworkers came up with five experiments to test how well
preschoolers can estimate quantities. What might have been the team's hypothesis
for each experiment?
 Compare a child's ability to speak but not write with a child's ability to
estimate but not understand numbers. How are these ideas similar and different?
 Why is it important to study math? See mathforum.org/dr.math/faq/faq.why.math.html [1] (Math Forum @
Drexel).
 What is numeracy? See www.literacyandnumeracy.gov.au/2005/for_parents.htm [2]
(Australian Government).
SOCIAL STUDIES
The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) compares how well U.S. students (fourth and eighthgraders) do in mathematics and science to how well students in other countries do. When was the last study done? How well did the United States do in math? What were the top three countries in math for each grade level? Why do you think these countries had the best results? When will the next study occur? See nces.ed.gov/timss/ [3] and nces.ed.gov/timss/Results03.asp [4] (National Center for Education Statistics).
LANGUAGE ARTS
 Write a letter to a math teacher suggesting some ways to teach math to small
children that reflect the ideas presented in this article.
 Write a children's story that might help children understand that numbers
are symbols.
MATHEMATICS
In 2003, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) compared how well U.S. eighthgraders did in mathematics to how well students in other countries did. The following table lists the average score on the test for each country that participated.
Country 
Average score 
Singapore 
605 
Korea, Republic
of 
589 
Hong Kong 
586 
Chinese Taipei 
585 
Japan 
570 
BelgiumFlemish 
537 
Netherlands 
536 
Estonia 
531 
Hungary 
529 
Malaysia 
508 
Latvia 
508 
Russian Federation 
508 
Slovak Republic 
508 
Australia 
505 
United States 
504 
Lithuania 
502 
Sweden 
499 
Scotland 
498 
Israel 
496 
New Zealand 
494 
Slovenia 
493 
Italy 
484 
Armenia 
478 
Serbia 
477 
Bulgaria 
476 
Romania 
475 
Norway 
461 
Moldova, Republic of 
460 
Cyprus 
459 
Macedonia, Republic of 
435 
Lebanon 
433 
Jordan 
424 
Iran, Islamic Republic of 
411 
Indonesia 
411 
Tunisia 
410 
Egypt 
406 
Bahrain 
401 
Palestinian National Authority 
390 
Chile 
387 
Morocco 
387 
Phlippines 
378 
Botswana 
366 
Saudi Arabia 
332 
Ghana 
276 
South Africa 
264

How many countries participated in the study? What was the international average score? Was the United States above or below average? How many countries were better than the United States? What percentage? What was the difference between the highest and lowest average scores? What was the median average score?