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The Number Sense: How the Mind Creates Mathematics, Revised and Updated Edition

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  376 ratings  ·  37 reviews
Our understanding of how the human brain performs mathematical calculations is far from complete, but in recent years there have been many exciting breakthroughs by scientists all over the world. Now, in The Number Sense , Stanislas Dehaene offers a fascinating look at this recent research, in an enlightening exploration of the mathematical mind. Dehaene begins with the ey ...more
Paperback, Revised and Updated, 316 pages
Published June 9th 2011 by OUP USA (first published 1996)
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4.01  · 
Rating details
 ·  376 ratings  ·  37 reviews

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Nov 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is the earliest of Dehaene's three books about the brain and how it supports mathematics, reading, and consciousness. I have read these books in reverse order, beginning with the latest, Consciousness and the Brain: Deciphering How the Brain Codes Our Thoughts, an epic up-to-the-minute treatise that spares no detail, and which is a model of excellent scientific writing. His earlier book on reading, Reading in the Brain: The Science and Evolution of a Human Invention, was written in a simila ...more
Apr 18, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One day, a group of friends of mine and I somehow randomly came up with this random question: how universal are numbers and mathematics? Why is it that all cultures seem to have some concept of numbers? So we came up with this game, we would agree not to use any number for a day to find out how hard it was. And holy crap, it is ten thousands times harder than we could ever imagine, not only because we were a bunch of physicists, but even simplest things like: what time is it? where’s your house? ...more
Apr 07, 2019 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
"The squirrel that notices that a branch bears two nuts, and neglects it for another one that bears three, will have more chances of making it safely through the winter." page 23 I'm not sure I agree with this statement. I believe that the squirrel that gathers nuts from the branch with 2 nuts AND also from the branch with 3 nuts will have 5 nuts (2+3=5) and therefore have more than 3 nuts, and the BEST chance to survive. I'm not arguing with the author on whether animals have number sense (as I ...more
Il libro è favoloso, anche se probabilmente la mia opinione possa essere influenzato dalla mia passione per le Neuroscienze. Comunque sia, il primo punto a favore è l'autore: non si tratta del solito giornalista scientifico che, eccitato da qualche frase sentita da qualche scienziato, decide di scrivere un libro sulla concezione dei numeri senza sapere niente né di matematica né del cervello. Qui si parla di un matematico che ha preso un PhD in psicologia cognitiva arrivando così ad occuparsi de ...more
Jay Cruz
Jun 28, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
The Number Sense is Stanislas Dehaene's argument that the human brain is wired to understand numbers, or "numerosity" as Dehaene puts it. Before we acquire language, learn number symbols, learn to count, and basically learn mathematics, we already come equipped to spot when there is less or more of something. Even animals have this number sense which is discussed in the first chapter of the book. Babies and children also come equipped with the "sense" and the second chapter gives many examples o ...more
Jun 14, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
As a radiologist and medical physicist, I found the early chapters on early childhood development of a number sense and the later chapters on number-processing deficits experienced by brain-damaged patients and brain imaging to be a little slow and not particularly revealing, most likely due to my prior exposure to these topics through my professional training. The middle chapters that discussed how adults think about numbers and do calculations, however, were fascinating.
Jul 03, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: psychology
Interesting review of the psychology of numbers. This guy has been featured a few times on the RadioLab podcast, which I love. I think its strength is the really interesting discussion of what animals and humans are inherently capable of when it comes to numbers and mathematics. Its weakness is when it tries to apply evolutionary arguments to the "fitness" of mathematical concepts, which I find kinda dumb.

Fun if you're interested in this kind of thing.
Ferruccio Fiordispini
“La matematica è l’opera della mente umana, che è destinata più a studiare che a conoscere, più a cercare che a trovare la verità” (cit. da Evariste Galois).
Si tratta di un libro estremamente interessante, per chi ama saggi di carattere scientifico con un taglio divulgativo.
Certamente è assai interessante per chiunque ami la matematica: capire come la mente umana funziona nel momento in cui effettua calcoli e pensa in maniera computazionale è importante.
Direi che si tratta di una lettura obbli
Adnan Khaleel
This book has lots of good theories but the author likes to ramble on and on for the sake of filling pages. He even states as much in the beginning on his approach to writing this book.
I would recommend it, but don’t feel like you have to read every page, which unfortunately I did.
Dakota McCoy
Jul 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Outstanding adventure into the way our evolved brains intuit about math!
Murilo Andrade
Aug 06, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: math

This book covers a lot of different subjects to study/explain Mathematical Reasoning.

The chapters follow a certain logic, starting with math comprehension in animals, then babies, then adults, and finally geniuses/prodigies. The book is based on intense research from several fields as phrenology, psychology, etc. Then it concludes with a more philosophical discussion about maths as a subject, its existence, its "purity" and matching with physical phenomena.

Chapter 1 - Talented and Gifted Animal
Dec 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
This insightful survey of the brain research around how our humans develop an understanding of mathematics is a fabulous resource. Although it is now 15 years old, the text is completely relevant and useful. Taking into account advances in the fields of psychology, neurology, and other cognitive sciences, Dehaene provides a strong foundation of how our brains make sense of numbers. This "updated" edition basically keeps the main text intact, but adds a tenth chapter on recent brain research with ...more
Zack Ward
Apr 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was far more interesting than I thought it would be. Dehaene affably guides the reader through a rather comprehensive history of the study of mathematical cognition. He tours old cognitive psychology theories that oversimplified the neocortex as a generalized association machine and others that over-emphasized the role of language in calculation, and shows us the experimental evidence that supports a slightly more complex rendering.

His theory posits that there are two main faculties of
Isaac Hazard
Sep 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Intriguing exploration of both the nature of math and the capacity of the human brain to learn it, perform it, and create it. Draws from experimental results from psychology and neurobiology to outline some fascinating conclusions including mathematical abilities we have from birth (tested in infants as young as 3 months!) some of which we share with a broad set of animal species.

While his attempts at entering the realm of philosophy of math felt clumsy and over-reaching, the bulk of the book wa
Vern Glaser
Jan 02, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
fun book. the author basically talks about how there are a couple of different math minds that we have. one is instinctual and revolves around intuitive approximations. the other is more analytical and linguistic (ie multiplication tables, etc). there is a nice blend between studying how the mind works biologically with acknowledgement that cultural differences are significant. one tidbit, for example, is that the chinese numbers are simpler linguistically, which enables a person who thinks in C ...more
Diana Sandberg
A little too long for me, but some interesting observations and conclusions, particularly with regard to the way humans acquire knowledge of arithmetic and why school drill methods are so often ineffective. Once again, it seems that the unschooler’s principle of allowing real life to teach much of this stuff until a desire for more formality expresses itself is sound. The “number sense” requires an appreciation of numeric relationships, an actual understanding, something rote learning quite freq ...more
May 15, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Some interesting insights here or there surrounded by a lot of information that I didn't care too much about.

Dehaene mentions Asian mathematical wiz-kids in a few places in this book. I would have loved reading more about how Anzan works within the brain, but the reader is sadly left with mere conjecture that anzan is similar to mental calculations made by the adept and well documented, such as Inaudi.
Mr. G
Feb 15, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mind and mathematics. I read this book during Summerbridge in 06 when my cognitive science major and interest in mathematics (freshly rejuvenated since I was teaching algebra) collided. Interesting research on how the brain construes numbers & number sense, and how the brain computes. Also presented theories on why some races might be quicker at learning math than others (based on language). I liked it.
Will Kent
Apr 28, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Compelling, fascinating topic matter. There's a world in those numbers and this book is one of the best guides you'll find. It strikes a sincere balance between psychology and mathematics. Toward the end there's a hint of philosophy. Unfortunately, the book is written like a journal paper (maybe best if read on a chapter-by-chapter basis). In spite of that, the material is so engaging and well-developed that YOU SHOULD READ IT. Repeat it after me 1-2-3- READ IT!
excellent book on how the mind creates mathematics. I was initially worried that the tpinformation would be outdated, but dehaene had some great insights most of which were corroborated by future research, which is summarized in the last, lengthy chapter. I read this for the course taught by one of Dehaene's collaborators, and both the book and the lectures were incredible.
What a fascinating book! Have you ever wondered how the brain processes numbers and mathematical thinking? Dehaene gives great explanations and an overview of brain research. If you teach math, this will help you understand kids' mathematical development, and how to take advantage of the way their brains work to effectively teach math.
Jun 13, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-esque
An interesting read. I found the chapter on losing number sense quite fascinating. However, I found other chapters dragged on a little bit. A lot of neat tidbits of information, but I found it read a bit like a long review article more so than a book. More psych, less math. Worth reading. If I could give .5's this would be a 3.5 rating.

Sep 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Besides an overly enthusiastic usage of the phrase "in the final analysis," this book is near-flawless. Thorough, accurate, insightful, useful, even damned funny in parts . . . call me a Dehaenophile through and through!

It will appeal most to those interested in the intersection between neuroscience and math education.
Oct 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, own
It's both factually dense and beautifully written. Loved it.
Steve Anderson
This is a fascinating books for math teachers. Others may find it a bit dry.
Oct 27, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some very interesting facts about how we form or rather we as kids form our number sense. It was fun to read about all the experiments researchers design to study number sense.
Dec 31, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Focus on the brain on math. Interesting combination of neurology and psychology
Aug 04, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: math-science
Must read for math teachers. I feel for what my less mathematically inclined students go through. Also just plain interesting.
Antonio Medina
Dec 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Such a great book and i would recommend highly as a good read.
Lisa Horowitz
Dec 28, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
well-written and fascinating neuroscience for general audience
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“progressive enrichment of children’s intuitions, leaning heavily on their precocious understanding of quantitative manipulations and of counting. One should first arouse their curiosity with some amusing numerical puzzles and problems. Then, little by little, one may introduce them to the power of symbolic mathematical notation and the shortcuts it provides — but at this stage, great care should be taken never to divorce such symbolic knowledge from the child’s quantitative intuitions. Eventually, formal axiomatic systems may be introduced. Even then, they should never be imposed on the child, but rather they should always be justified by a demand for greater simplicity and effectiveness. Ideally, each pupil should mentally, in condensed form, retrace the history of mathematics and its motivations.” 0 likes
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