Re: Geary 1

From: Capon Sam (
Date: Mon Feb 16 1998 - 09:44:34 GMT

> From: nik <>
> To: "Yr 3 Course Discussion List" <>

> This section begins by making the point that many cognitive
> abilities and processes found in all members of the human
> species today - for example, language production - are there
> because they aided our ancestors in survival and reproduction
> in our evolutionary past.

I agree that many of the cognitive abilities that we find today, like
for example mathematical abilities, are shaped by our evolutionary
past, but could it really be argued that somewhat more complex
abilities such as language production, which after all involve the
understanding of complicated semantic and grammatical rules, could
also have been shaped in an evolutionary past? I find it difficult to
believe that prehistoric men were at that point in time already
skilled language users.

> >While the initial structures for the cognitive competencies
> >that might be associated with primary abilities appear to be
> >inherent, the goal structures as well as procedural and
> >conceptual competencies for secondary abilities are likely
> >to be induced or learned from other people (e.g., teachers)
> I got lost on the above!

What this seems to be saying is that initial cognitive structures
such as good spatial skills are inherent because they have been
present in the (male?) species all throughout evolutionary history,
and that these represent the basis for a general mathematical ability
(like basic principles of geometry, ordinality, and so on...).
However, much more complicated mathematical abilities that we learn
today like probabilities, derivatives, or even multiplication or
division, seem to be a combination of these initial structures but
also of a cultural learning process that will have been developed
through schooling.

> >it is very unlikely that the evolution of spatial abilities
> >was in any way related to the solving mathematical word
> problems. Nevertheless, spatial representations of
> >mathematical relationships are used, that is co-opted, by
> >some people to aid in the solving of such problems (Johnson
> >1984). The use of spatial systems for moving about in one's
> >surroundings or developing ognitive maps of one's
> >surroundings appears to occur more or less automatically
> >(Landau et l. 1981). However, most people need to be taught,
> >typically in school, how to use spatial representations to
> >solve, for instance, mathematical word problems (Lewis
> 1989).

These basic mathematical, or rather spatial, abilities cannot indeed
have evolved to solve the mathematical problems that we face today,
since these are much more complicated than what our ancestors might
have faced in a past history. It is however interesting to see how
these basics are ''coopted'' onto cultural and learning processes to
produce the complicated solving ability that we have today.

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