Academic journal article Science and Children

# Toddlers Show Intuitive Understanding of Probability

Academic journal article Science and Children

# Toddlers Show Intuitive Understanding of Probability

## Article excerpt

Most people know children learn many skills simply by watching people around them. Now researchers have found that children as young as age 2 intuitively use mathematical concepts such as probability to help make sense of the world around them.

In a recent study, toddlers could tell the difference between two different ways an experimenter played a game, with one strategy being more successful than the other. When it was their turn to play, the children could use the more successful strategy that they observed to increase their odds of winning.

"In the real world, there are multitudes of possible ways to solve a problem, but how do we learn how to find the best solution?" says lead author Anna Waismeyer. "In our study, we wanted to see if young children could detect the difference between two imperfect ways of winning a game, and then use the better strategy to their own advantage."

Waismeyer and coauthors Andrew Meltzoff and Alison Gopnik designed a cause-and-effect game. First, the child watched as the researcher played. Placing a wooden block onto a lunchbox-size box activated a nearby marble-dispensing machine. One block activated the machine two-thirds of the time, and a differently colored and shaped block triggered the machine only one-third of the time.

In about 20 minutes, the children watched 12 run-throughs using the different blocks. Then, given the chance to play the game themselves, 23 out of the 32, or 72%, of the children eagerly picked the block with the greater success rate, as shown in the video: http://youtu. …

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