The Cradle of Culture and What Children Know About Writing and Numbers Before Being: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Cradle of Culture and What Children Know About Writing and Numbers Before Being

1st Edition

By Liliana Tolchinsky

Psychology Press

296 pages

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pub: 2003-01-01
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This book provides a thrilling description of preliterate children's developing ideas about writing and numerals, and it illustrates well the many ways in which cultural artifacts influence the mind and vice versa. Remarkably, children treat writing and numerals as distinct even before they have received any formal training on the topic, and well before they learn how to use writing to represent messages and numerals to represent quantities.

In this revolutionary new book, Liliana Tolchinsky argues that preliterate children's experiences with writing and numerals play an essential and previously unsuspected role in children's subsequent development. In this view, learning notations, such as writing is not just a matter of acquiring new instruments for communicating existing knowledge. Rather, there is a continual interaction between children's understanding of the features of a notational system and their understanding of the corresponding domain of knowledge. The acquisition of an alphabetic writing system transforms children's view of language, and the acquisition of a formal system of enumeration transforms children's understanding of numbers.

Written in an engaging narrative style, and richly illustrated with historical examples, case studies, and charming descriptions of children's behavior, this book is aimed not only at cognitive scientists, but also at educators, parents, and anyone interested in how children develop in a cultural context.


"This is a thought-provoking analysis for those with specialized knowledge about linguistic and numerical development. The glossary, index, and reference list are excellent additions to the book….Highly recommended."


Table of Contents

Contents: Preface. Introduction: What Children Know and We Have Already Forgotten About Writing and Numerals. What Philosophers Say About Representational Means That May Help Us to Understand What Makes Writing and Numerals So Special. What Historians Say About the Origin and History of Writing and Numerals. What Children Know About Writing Before Being Formally Taught to Write. What Children Know About Numerals Before Being Formally Taught and Immediately Afterward. What Children Know About the Relations Between Writing and Number Notation. The Effect of Writing on Children and Grown-Ups Once It Has Been Learned. Closing Reflections on Notational Systems, Boomerangs, and Circles.

About the Series

Developing Mind Series

This series presents high-quality scholarship in a format that makes each book useful in a wide variety of situations. For example, books in the series may serve as:

  • solid introductions to particular topics for professionals in other sub-disciplines;
  • texts for adoption for upper-level courses (e.g., senior seminars or graduate courses) or supplemental use in mid-level courses (e.g., cognitive development courses); and/or
  • engaging overviews of cognitive developmental theory and research for a more general audience of educated nonspecialists.

In addition to making an indispensable scholarly contribution to the literature, each book is broadly accessible and widely marketed. Given these goals, there are no specific constraints on the type of book to be published in the series, although in most cases authored books will be more likely to serve these purposes than edited volumes. Proposals submitted for consideration will be carefully reviewed, and those accepted for inclusion in the series will receive editorial development as befits a first-class outlet for publication of scholarly texts.

Inquiries about the series may be directed to:

Philip D. Zelazo, Ph.D.
University of Minnesota
Institute of Child Development
51 East River Road
MN 55455-0345
Phone: 612-624-5957
Fax: 612-624-6373

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PSYCHOLOGY / Developmental / General