IAS Annual Report 2014-15 - page 12

David Geary’s lecture
Evolution of Vulnerability
, can be watched at
Emergent Experience
Collaborators and researchers continued the subtheme,
Emergent Experience,
Emerging Mathematics
brought together different perspectives on developing
mathematical knowledge to see how it could inform instruction
and learning, particularly in the classroom. The workshop
was not only aimed at researchers but also teachers and
educationalists interested in mathematic education. The event
provided an opportunity for practitioners and academics to
come closer together in their understanding of the challenges
that mathematical education presents, both to the learner
and the educator. This activity reflected the need for closer
links to be established between theory and practice and
interdisciplinary exploration.
Early mathematical concepts were reviewed, looking at
the interaction between the cultural and historical, the
psychological, and educational perspectives to inform the
development of mathematics in children, and inform teachers
as to how best to help develop this knowledge.
IAS Fellow and world expert on the psychological development
of mathematical knowledge in children Professor
David Geary
considered the issue from an evolutionary and neurobiological
perspective. Other world leading academics included
Professor Jens Hoyrup (Roskilde University, Denmark), Dr
Joni Holmes and Dr Darren Dunning, (Cambridge) and Dr
Patrick Barmby (Wits University, Johannesburg).
During his Fellowship Professor Geary focused on completing
analyses and several manuscripts based on studies of children’s
mathematical cognition ranging from the cognitive and memory
systems that contribute to individual differences in high school
student’s algebraic competence to five-year-olds’ understanding
of the mathematical number line to a multi-national study of the
mathematics anxiety of more than 750,000 15-year olds.
The Evolution of Vulnerability
According to Professor David Geary
biologists have known for decades that
many, probably most, traits involved in
competition for mates or mate choice
are exaggerated and their expression is
influenced by the health, fitness, genes, et
cetera of the individual. For instance, the bright plumage of
the males of many species of bird can only be expressed
by healthy males; in part because high testosterone needed
to express these traits suppresses the immune system and
thus sick males cannot ‘afford’ to express the traits.
The sensitivity of these traits to environment and social
conditions evolved so that less fit individuals cannot ‘fake’
good health, provisioning potential etc. The concept has
been applied to humans for some traits (e.g., male facial
features) but not widely. Professor Geary reviewed these
studies and reframed the issue entirely by illustrating
that that when applied to humans, condition dependent
traits can be used to identify children, adolescents, or
populations at risk for poor long-term outcomes.
Image was published in:
Evolution and Vulnerability
, Geary D.,
Copyright Elsevier (2015).
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