Children's learning of number words in an indigenous farming-foraging group

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Abstract

We show that children in the Tsimane', a farming-foraging group in the Bolivian rain-forest, learn number words along a similar developmental trajectory to children from industrialized countries. Tsimane' children successively acquire the first three or four number words before fully learning how counting works. However, their learning is substantially delayed relative to children from the United States, Russia, and Japan. The presence of a similar developmental trajectory likely indicates that the incremental stages of numerical knowledge – but not their timing — reflect a fundamental property of number concept acquisition which is relatively independent of language, culture, age, and early education.

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