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SCIENCE Notebook

Monday, January 23, 2006; Page A06; The Washington Post

Geometry Called Inherent Skill – Noam Chomsky, meet Pythagoras.

Scientists studying whether certain skills come naturally to the human brain have long been intrigued by humans’ innate capacity for language. Last week, scientists extended this notion further — to geometry.

The conceptual principles of geometry are inherent to the brain, according to their study. They found that children belonging to an Amazonian indigenous group called the Munduruku, who had little exposure to schools and mathematics, were just as competent at solving geometric puzzles as American children.

The Munduruku youngsters proved to be intuitively skilled in concepts such as topology, Euclidean geometry and basic geometrical figures, such as lines, parallels and right angles. However, Munduruku adults were outperformed on similar tests by American adults, a difference that the predominantly French researchers attributed to the advantage of education.

“Geometrical knowledge arises…

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