can animals understand math?

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  • 1 decade ago
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    It depends on what you mean by "understand". It is possible to teach some primates basic counting and arithmetic - see the link below. But does this really count as understanding math? Arithmetic skills are really language skills. One doesn't really "understand" that three follows two or that two plus five is seven; one simply learns that there are some symbols which we call numbers which go in a particular order and which can be manipulated according to certain rules. Granted, it requires an ability to handle and manipulate abstract concepts, but no more so than is required to form the sentence "the cat ate the mouse". I think understanding involves being able to to apply ones knowledge to a completely new problem, and it is not clear that any member of the animal kingdom can do this in the context of mathematics.

    It is interesting to note that many members of the animal kingdom are capable of instinctively performing very complex calculations. For example, an ant will leave the nest and take a long, meandering path in search of food but then walk in nearly a straight line back to the nest once the food is found. Ants can do this over great distances, implying that the ant's brain is capable of computing integrals of vector valued functions. Scientists have some understanding of how the ant's brain does this calculation, and it turns out that it uses the Chinese remainder theorem to store numerical information. But it is doubtful that the ant is aware of any of this; to accurately throw a baseball to another person across a large field the human brain must unconsciously perform similar complex calculations, but I don't think your average baseball player knows much calculus.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Doubtful. I would think they don't understand the significance of numbers, nor be able to read them.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Humans can barley understand it. I don't think animals can.

  • actually, some chimpanzees can, with a lot of training

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  • 1 decade ago

    my gold fish solves my calculus

    Norman Tanquerido style!!!!

    Source(s): yeah man
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