Reading, Writing and Arithmetic

Thu, 26 Oct 1995 20:34:23 GMT

Most people seem to agree that Reading/Writing is a relatively new
ability in humans (those chimps they taught sign language - could they
read? Maybe not an alphabetic language, but say, Chinese?). Has our
ability to read and write increased over the ages? How would this show
up in e.g. paleoanthropological evidence / archeological evidence?

It's obvious that other animals than humans have some arithmetic
ability, but when did we start doing abstract arithmetic? (not 2
oranges and another orange makes three oranges - I think we do that
from experience). All the 'living' evidence I've seen in young
children suggests to me that we have to be taught the idea of abstract
sums e.g. 2+1=3, and most people seem to take that to mean
"2 of something + 1 of something = 3 of something" i.e. they imagine 3
^^ ^^^^^^^^^ ^^ ^^^^^^^^^ ^^ ^^^^^^^^^
blobs of 'something'.

David Chan (
There is a subliminal message hidden in this sentence.