Latest news from Loughborough University

1 Oct 2015

Making sense of maths: new e-learning programme to support teenagers born very prematurely

Image: Thinkstock

A new web-based e-learning programme to boost the maths skills of teenagers born very prematurely is to be developed with the help of Loughborough University. 

The unique platform is intended to be used by teachers to support children’s learning as part of a three-year study funded by children’s charity Action Medical Research

Dr Camilla Gilmore, Reader in Mathematical Cognition at Loughborough’s Maths Education Centre, is part of the award-winning research team[1] which will explore how children’s maths skills have developed from primary to secondary school. These findings will then be used to develop the e-learning programme. 

Maths skills are linked to future employment prospects and earning potential. With one in every 50 babies being born before 32 weeks of pregnancy, this means that almost all teachers will be responsible for supporting children who were born very early.[2]

“Many children who were born very prematurely, before 32 weeks of pregnancy, have learning difficulties,” said lead researcher Dr Samantha Johnson, Senior Fellow at the University of Leicester’s Department of Health Sciences. 

“Of all school subjects, these children are most likely to struggle with maths. Such difficulties, even in primary school, can affect children’s prospects throughout their whole life. 

“We will use the information gained in this new research to develop a web-based, e-learning programme that shows teachers how best to support premature children’s learning, especially in maths. 

“We’ve found that teachers often feel ill-equipped to support such children’s learning, especially in maths. In earlier work, we found that over 90 per cent of teachers in the UK wanted this sort of support. We hope to enable teachers to help all premature children to achieve their full potential.” 

Dr Caroline Johnston, Research Evaluation Manager at Action Medical Research, said: “Maths skills are vital for every child’s future. Action is very pleased to be able to fund this exciting project to support children born very prematurely in this crucial area of learning.”

Notes for editors

Article reference number: October news


[1] Other members of the research team include: Lucy Cragg and Heather Wharrad of the University of Nottingham; Neil Marlow at University College London; Victoria Simms who is based at Ulster University; and Rose Griffiths at the University of Leicester.

[2] National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Preterm labour and birth final scope. 10 July 2013. Website accessed 28 January 2015.

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, putting it among the best universities in the world, and was named University of the Year in the What Uni Student Choice Awards 2015.Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. It was 2nd in the 2015 THE Student Experience Survey and was named Sports University of the Year 2013-14 by The Times and Sunday Times. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

In September 2015 the University opened an additional academic campus in London’s new innovation quarter. Loughborough University London, based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities.

Action Medical Research is a leading UK-wide charity working to save and change children’s lives through medical research. It believes that the diseases that devastate the lives of so many of our children can be beaten. It has been funding medical breakthroughs since it began in 1952 – helping to save thousands of children’s lives and change many more.