The Math Instinct: The amazing mathematical abilities of animals, birds, insects, and babies, and what we can learn from them


Date Thursday June 2nd 2005
Time 4:00-5:00pm
Venue George E. Pake Auditorium

PARC Forum

Most people think they don’t have much mathematical ability, but they are wrong. Numerous studies have shown that practically every one of us has considerable facility with basic math, we just don’t know it. Give the average person a math test and they will score poorly. But present them with the very same problems in the form of a real-life activity (which they maybe don’t think of as math) and they will score in the 95-100% range. In fact, it’s not just ordinary people that have mathematical abilities. So do several species of animals. The talk will consider some of the more remarkable examples of natural mathematical ability in animals, and end by asking what, if anything, our fellow creatures have to offer that we can take into the math classroom.

Based on Devlin’s book “The Math Instinct: Why You’re a Mathematical Genius (Along with Lobsters, Birds, Cats, and Dogs)”, published this month by Thunder’s Mouth Press. URL:


Keith Devlin is "the Math Guy" on National Public Radio. He is the executive director of Stanford's Center for the Study of Language and Information and a consulting professor of mathematics. He is the author of 24 books and over 70 mathematical research papers. Devlin is also a cowriter of the BBC Horizon/ WGBH Nova television documentary "A Mathematical Mystery Tour" and has appeared on a number of television programs, including the six-part PBS series "Life by the Numbers", for which he wrote the companion book. Visit the author's Web site at

Additional information

Focus Areas

Our work is centered around a series of Focus Areas that we believe are the future of science and technology.

Licensing & Commercialization Opportunities

We’re continually developing new technologies, many of which are available for Commercialization.


PARC scientists and staffers are active members and contributors to the science and technology communities.