The Centre for Mathematical Cognition (CMC) at Loughborough University is a world-leading centre for educationally relevant research on mathematical thinking and learning.
Launched in 2020 with £16.4m of funding from Research England and the Economic and Social Research Council, the Centre brings together a vibrant group of researchers who harness insights from basic scientific research to understanding how people learn mathematics, and how this can be facilitated.
Mathematics is essential, both as an intellectual discipline in its own right, and for providing the underpinning language for science, engineering and, increasingly, the social and medical sciences. Mathematics also provides individual citizens with necessary skills at virtually all levels of employment. High levels of numeracy are associated with enhanced employment outcomes for individuals and with increased economic growth: the annual cost to the UK economy of poor mathematics skills is estimated to be £25bn.
High-performing education systems emphasise evidence-informed teaching, and encourage teachers to use and take part in educational research. Given this, the UK government recognises that putting research evidence at the centre of both policy and practice is key to improving education. This vision is shared by the teaching profession: the Chartered College of Teaching lists supporting teachers to work with the latest evidence and research as its primary goal. The CMC meets this challenge in the context of mathematics. By designing and evaluating evidence-based practices in teaching and learning, we will help to meet the increasing demand for a mathematically skilled workforce.
Distinctively, we aim to bridge the gap between basic research on mathematical cognition and more applied work that involves designing and evaluating research-informed pedagogical materials. Some examples of our recent work:
- Theresa Wege and colleagues investigated how young children develop the ability to count abstract units (“how many kinds of animals are there?”), finding that some children can successfully identify these abstract units but not count them. Their work opens up new opportunities for supporting young children’s early counting development.
- Francesco Sella and colleagues studied the influence that choosing to study mathematics at post-compulsory levels has on brain development, finding that opting out of mathematics education is associated with reduced inhibition levels in a key brain area involved in reasoning and learning.
- Colin Foster and colleagues are harnessing basic research insights to develop a complete, fully resourced, and free-to-access mathematics curriculum for students aged 11-14.
- Hugues Lortie-Forgues and Matthew Inglis studied how educational interventions are currently evaluated, arguing that existing methods typically provide uninformative results and suggesting how the situation could be improved.