Intuitions Regarding Geometry Are Universal

All human beings may have the ability to understand elementary geometry, independently of their culture or their level of education.

This is the conclusion of a study carried out by CNRS, Inserm, CEA, the Collège de France, Harvard University and Paris Descartes, Paris-Sud 11 and Paris 8 universities (1). It was conducted on Amazonian Indians living in an isolated area, who had not studied geometry at school and whose language contains little geometric vocabulary. Their intuitive understanding of elementary geometric concepts was compared with that of populations who, on the contrary, had been taught geometry at school. The researchers were able to demonstrate that all human beings may have the ability of demonstrating geometric intuition. This ability may however only emerge from the age of 6-7 years. It could be innate or instead acquired at an early age when children become aware of the space that surrounds them. This work is published in the PNAS.

A Mundurucu participant measuring an angle using a goniometer laid on a table. (Credit: © Pierre Pica / CNRS)

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