Yes, you read the title correctly. The question "Can babies count?" is based on something new, researchers are discovering.
I will say the answer is no, they cannot count at least count in the traditional way of starting with one. However, it appears babies recognize certain concepts dealing with more or less. More general ideas.
According to research, babies are sensitive to the concept of more than or less than relationships when applied to number, size, and duration of exposure. It is noted if a baby is exposed to one concept, they are able to guess what the other looks like.
The author of a study at Emory University has concluded babies use information to organize their experiences during their first few months of life. Further research indicates children by the age of 1.5 years old are learning to count to six using the fundamental one by one routine.
Both articles indicated children tend to stare longer at items they are processing so if an adult stands in front of six items and points to each one while counting out loud, children pay more attention than if an adult just points at one example while repeating the number. However, children are not able to really begin to develop the process of counting till at least the age of two.
Even NPR published something on this topic. NPR looks at a different study that concluded we are born with the ability to know math due to evolution. Furthermore, it states animals are born with the ability to do certain types of math which help them navigate through their environment. This particular study mentions the better high school students are at numeracy when they graduate, the more likely they are do well in life.
The thought behind these studies is to develop a set of indicators so we know when students enter kindergarten if they have the skills to succeed in math. After following preschool students for two years, checking them for 12 different skills and following them into kindergarten and first grade, researchers discovered estimation is extremely important.
In addition, it is important for young children to have a solid grasp of cardinal numbers. Early results indicate preschool teachers should focus on core skills rather than trying to cover it all. The authors have designed additional studies to explore it in more detail.
This supports something I've known for a while and that is students who are not up to grade level in math by the end of 3rd grade, they may not graduate from high school because they do not have the skills needed to succeed.
Let me know what you think. I am writing this while sitting in the Sea Tac Airport awaiting my flight to Washington D.C. where I catch a plane to Iceland for a few day before heading off to Finland. I will be doing my best to stay on schedule.
Have a good day.