Mathematical cognition

The mathematical cognition theme focuses on understanding the processes by which students come to understand mathematical ideas.

The mathematical cognition theme investigates the cognitive processes by which students come to understand mathematical concepts and perform mathematical tasks, with a view to improving educational practice. We research numerical cognition, especially addressing the question of how children assign meaning to numerical symbols.

Our specific aims are:

  • (i) to disentangle the role that cardinal and ordinal information play in numerical symbol learning,
  • (ii) to understand the domain-general and domain-specific cognitive predictors of early numerical understanding, and
  • (iii) to begin testing whether these predictors are causal or correlational and exploring interventions that might help children become more numerically confident.

We have a particular reputation for our work on numerical cognition and mathematical reasoning.

Notable recent projects have studied the different roles of executive functions in procedural and conceptual aspects of mathematics across childhood and adolescence (funded by the ESRC and Royal Society), the relationship between advanced mathematical study and general reasoning development (Royal Society), the role of children’s spontaneous attention to numerical aspects of the environment in their school mathematics achievement (ESRC), and expert/novice differences in mathematical reading strategies (HEA, OUP and ESRC).

Many aspects of this research have been discussed in the media (including the New York Times, Guardian, Telegraph, Independent, Times, Daily Mail, BBC News, Times Educational Supplement, The Sun, and Radio 4), and we frequently receive invitations to disseminate our work to audiences of teachers and other educational practitioners.

Research within the Mathematical Cognition theme now constitutes a major strand of the Centre for Mathematical Cognition (CMC). Find out more about the CMC on their website.

Open Science policy

Colleagues who work on mathematical cognition have developed an open science policy.

You can read the policy below.