An Evolved Psychological Structure for Dealing, Food Sharing, and Mathematical Division

Peter C Cormas


Research has shown that very young children have the ability to solve difficult division problems before formal school-based instruction. This is accomplished by solving sharing-based division word problems by an interesting act known as 'dealing'. The theory set forth in this manuscript is that children's ability to solve sharing-based division problems is due to an evolved psychological structure expressed as a dealing action. This structure may have been shaped by an ancient ecology, which pressured human ancestors to cooperatively share food in order to survive, and contributed to the emergence of formal mathematical division. This theory is supported by evidence of a specialized action for dealing to solve sharing-based division problems, a pancultural ability for young children to solve the problems, children's lack of consciousness while solving the problems, development from dealing to a mental model, evidence of evolved quantitative abilities in humans and animals, food sharing behaviors in humans and capuchin monkeys, and egalitarian abilities. The discussion section includes: a possible scenario for the development of the structure; an illustration of how the structure can be used in the elementary classroom; and empirical questions which may lead to a better understanding of food sharing habits, ecology, and sociology of early humans.


mathematical division; evolved psychological structure; food sharing; quantitative abilities; capuchin monkeys; dealing; problem solving

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