A recent study carried out with an Amazonian tribe called the Mundurucu has suggested that a lot of our human intuitions about geometry are innate. The researchers studied how the Mundurucu examined lines, points and angles then compared the results with those of French and American children.
The Mundurucu not only showed a comparable level of understanding but even outperformed some of the students on tasks that asked questions of forms on a sphere.
The Greek mathematician Euclid outlined the basic tenets of geometry about 2,300 years ago with familiar propositions such as ‘a line can connect two points’, ‘the angles of a triangle always add up to the same total’ or ‘two parallel lines can never cross’.
These principals are ingrained as we know in formal education but with this recent evidence comes the debate upon whether an intuition for geometry exists regardless of language or what degree of education a person might have attained.
The Mundurucu people were able to come to roughly the same conclusions as the western children despite their lack of education and the lack of language for describing such terms.
“Mundurucu is a language with only approximate numbers…You don’t have a lot geometrical terms like square or triangle or anything like that, and no way of saying two lines are parallel…it looks like the language does not have this concept.”
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