Spontaneous focusing on numerosity and the development of early numerical skills

Lead Research Organisation: Loughborough University
Department Name: Mathematics Education Centre

Abstract

Project theme
This research project will look at the development of children's numerical skills in the preschool and primary school years. It will explore new ways of supporting early numerical development through informal number-based activities.

Background
We know from recent research that children show individual differences in numerical skills even before they start school. These differences appear to have long lasting effects, with numerical knowledge before school predicting mathematical skills throughout primary and secondary school. As such, it is important to uncover the factors which affect children's early numerical development.

One important factor (which has recently been discovered) is the extent to which children recognise and use numbers in informal everyday settings. Or, in other words, the extent to which children spontaneously focus on numbers. Studies have shown that preschool children show individual differences in their tendency to spontaneously focus on numbers, and these differences predict both current numerical skills and later mathematics success in school. This raises interesting questions as to whether we can support early numerical development by training children to focus on numbers in informal everyday settings.

Research activities
The research in this project will address three questions:

1) Why does spontaneous focusing on numbers predict early numerical skills?
2) How does formal mathematics instruction affect children's tendency to spontaneously focus on numbers?
3) Can we increase children's tendency to spontaneously focus on numbers? If so, does this lead to better mathematical outcomes?

To address these questions I will carry out three strands of research:

1) I will give children (aged 4-5 years) a range of tasks designed to measure their numerical skills and the extent to which they spontaneously focus on numbers. I will look at the strength of the relationship between these skills to uncover the reasons why children's tendency to spontaneously focus on numbers has a positive influence on numerical skills.
2) Working with researchers across Europe I will look at the extent to which children spontaneously focus on numbers in preschools and primary schools in Northern Ireland, England, Belgium and Finland. Children in these countries all start school (and are first introduced to formal mathematics instruction) at different ages; 4, 5, 6, and 7 years, respectively. This provides a natural opportunity to uncover the effect of formal mathematics instruction on children's tendency to spontaneously focus on numbers.
3) Working closely with preschool teachers and parents I will design informal number-based activities that encourage children to spontaneously focus on numbers. These will be simple, low-cost activities that can be easily integrated into everyday preschool routines. I will evaluate the effectiveness of these activities by measuring children's numerical skills (and the extent to which they spontaneously focus on numbers) before and after the activities have been introduced.

Sharing findings
The project findings will further our theoretical understanding of the factors affecting children's early numerical development. They will be of interest to researchers in developmental psychology and mathematics education. I will publish findings nationally and internationally through journals, conferences and workshops.

The findings will also have important practical applications for early years mathematics education. As such, they will be shared with those involved in children's education directly (e.g. teachers, parents) and indirectly (e.g. educational policymakers). I will produce a variety of written publications including project newsletters, education magazine articles and education policy reports. I will also organise national teacher workshops and I will develop practical resources including teacher packs, online podcasts and mobile applications.

Planned Impact

This proposal has been developed to maximise social and economic impact as well as advancing scientific knowledge.

The focus of the research is on understanding and improving children's early numerical skills. With children as the ultimate beneficiaries, outcomes will benefit those involved in children's education both directly (e.g. early years practitioners and parents) and indirectly (e.g. educational policymakers and researchers).

Social and Economic Impact
Understanding how numbers work is an essential life skill. It is important not only for the individual negotiating life's daily demands, but for modern society as a whole. Recent years have seen growing concerns about the numerical skills of young people worldwide. As such, there has been increased attention to early years numeracy practices, with research suggesting that early years interventions are more effective and economically efficient.

This research will examine a novel and cost-effective approach to early years numeracy intervention. Specifically, it will provide robust evidence on the effectiveness of early years numeracy practices that foster children's informal use and recognition of numbers. The findings will be able to inform curriculum decisions within the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Framework. Recent policies within this framework have called for more formal mathematics in the preschool curriculum but we do not know whether this is the optimal approach. Crucially, this research will provide a better understanding of the role of formal and informal numerical experiences in early mathematics learning. It will allow educational policymakers to draw on a rigorous evidence base when making recommendations to government.

Policymakers will be involved from the outset of the project through influential bodies such as the Royal Institution, the Advisory Committee of Mathematics Education (ACME), the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications (IMA) and the Education Foundation. Representatives within these bodies, and also within the Department for Education, will be sent two policy-briefs (one interim and one end of project) summarising the research findings and detailing recommendations for policy. To extend links with policymakers and to ensure that these policy-briefs are of utmost relevance, a Scientific Advisory Board comprising three national experts in mathematics education will be formed and consulted with throughout the project.

Early years practitioners will also participate in the development of this research. Intervention materials will be co-developed with preschool teachers to maximise their impact in early years education practices. They will involve simple, accessible and low-cost activities that teachers and parents can readily integrate into everyday routines. Expanding on networks of local teachers (who have been closely involved with the progression of this research to date), project information, training and resources will be made widely available. A series of national teacher training workshops, online podcasts and downloadable materials (including mobile applications for children) will provide practical support for teachers, parents as well as children themselves. Importantly, a Teacher panel will be formed at the outset of the project to ensure that all of these communications and resources are timely and accessible. Furthermore, all resources will be made available on the project website (maintained both during and after the fellowship) to maximise short-term and long-term impact.

Academic Impact
As identified in the Academic Beneficiaries section, this research will have international impact in the numerical cognition and mathematics education domains. The findings will speak to debates surrounding the role of children's early numerical experiences on later mathematics skill. They will influence theoretical models of early numerical development, as well as pedagogies for early mathematics education.
 
Description The research funded on this grant focused on a recently-discovered predictor of numerical skills, namely, the extent to which children spontaneously recognise and use numbers in their everyday surroundings ('Spontaneous Focusing on Numerosity' or SFON). Three strands of research were conducted.

The first strand investigated the mechanisms through which SFON exerts its positive influence on numerical skills (objective 1). I gave children aged 4-5 years a range of tasks designed to measure their numerical skills and the extent to which they spontaneously focused on numbers. I found that children's SFON was positively associated with how quickly and accurately they could connect number symbols (e.g. "3") and underlying quantity information (e.g. •••). Children's fluency with making these connections partly explained the relation between SFON and arithmetic skills. This suggests that SFON may lead to increased practice making the connections between number symbols and quantities. This finding helped to inform the development of a preschool number intervention in Strand 3 of the project.

The second strand involved a cross-country collaboration with researchers in Belgium, Finland and Northern Ireland. We investigated the effect of school starting age on children's SFON and mathematical skills (objective 2). Children aged 4 to 7 years were recruited from each of the four countries; Northern Ireland, England, Belgium and Finland, where children start school at 4, 5, 6, and 7 years respectively. We found that there were some country differences in SFON and mathematical skills, but the differences were small and they did not show a consistent pattern that was predicted by the onset of formal mathematics instruction. These findings open up many interesting questions. In principle, the countries differ in the onset of "formal mathematics instruction", but the underlying nature of the activities children engage with at different ages may be similar. Four- and five-year-old preschoolers in Belgium and Finland may be taught the same core skills as the four- and five-year-old schoolchildren in Northern Ireland and England, albeit in an informal setting. Also, while we do not see differences in children's early cognitive outcomes, it is possible that different school starting ages are associated with differences in motivation and attitudes towards mathematics.

The third strand involved the development of two early years number interventions (objective 3). First a 'NumberStart' intervention comprising a pack of resources to help parents of 3-4-year-olds engage in activities to support their children's number learning. Second, a preschool intervention on a tablet computer designed to help children make the connections between number symbols and quantities. A study to evaluate the effectiveness of the NumberStart intervention is ongoing. From the post-test interviews conducted so far, we can see that parents are positive about the intervention and they report that it has changed the types and frequency of activities they have engaged in with their child. The preschool intervention has been developed and refined based on pilot testing. It will provide a useful tool for future studies to test the causal relations between SFON, fluency with number symbols and quantities, and formal mathematical skills.
Exploitation Route The findings may be of interest and use to early years practitioners, parents, policy-makers, and others working within the education sector.

The findings speak to debates around the nature of early years numeracy practices. There have been increased calls for more formal mathematical content in the preschool curriculum. The results of our cross-country comparison study showed that children's early mathematical outcomes were not predicted by the age at which they started formal mathematics instruction. This suggests that children may learn the same core mathematical skills in informal and formal settings. It would be interesting to take this finding forward and see whether different school starting ages affect children's attitudes towards mathematics.

The project has involved the development of a pack of 'NumberStart' resources to help parents of 3-4-year-olds engage in activities to support their children's number learning. This intervention can be taken forward for further development and testing through randomised controlled trials.

The project has also involved the development of a preschool tablet based intervention which can be taken forward by researchers to test the causal relations between SFON, fluency with number symbols and quantities, and formal mathematical skills. This may help to inform theoretical models of early numerical development.
Sectors Education

 
Description Conference Travel Funding to attend US Math Cognition Conference May 2015
Amount $700 (USD)
Organisation University of Virginia (UVa) 
Sector Academic/University
Country United States
Start 05/2015 
End 05/2015
 
Description Grand Challenges in Mathematical Cognition 
Organisation Rutgers University
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The contribution of my research team was to organise a collaborative exercise designed to generate a coherent agenda for research on mathematical cognition. Following an established method, the exercise brought together 16 mathematical cognition researchers from across the fields of mathematics education, psychology and neuroscience. All partner institutions were invited to engage in a process in which they: -Generated an initial list of research questions with the potential to significantly advance understanding of mathematical cognition; -Winnowed this list to a smaller set of priority questions; -Refined the eventual questions to meet criteria related to clarity, specificity and practicability (this stage took place at a 2 day conference organised by our research team at the Kavli Royal Society International Centre).
Collaborator Contribution The collaboration was led by our research group at Loughborough University. All partner institutions engaged in the collaborative exercise set up (please see the section above for an outline of this process).
Impact A conference that took place at the Kavli Royal Society International Centre resulted in the following publication which is in press: Alcock, L., Ansari, D., Batchelor, S., Bisson, M.-J., De Smedt, B., Gilmore, C., Goebel, S. M., Hannula-Sormunen, M., Hodgen, J., Inglis, M., Jones, I., Mazzocco, M., McNeil, N., Schneider, M., Simms, V., & Weber, K. (in press). Challenges in mathematical cognition: A collaboratively-derived research agenda. Journal of Numerical Cognition. Multidisciplinary collaboration: Education, Psychology, Neuroscience.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Grand Challenges in Mathematical Cognition 
Organisation Ulster University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The contribution of my research team was to organise a collaborative exercise designed to generate a coherent agenda for research on mathematical cognition. Following an established method, the exercise brought together 16 mathematical cognition researchers from across the fields of mathematics education, psychology and neuroscience. All partner institutions were invited to engage in a process in which they: -Generated an initial list of research questions with the potential to significantly advance understanding of mathematical cognition; -Winnowed this list to a smaller set of priority questions; -Refined the eventual questions to meet criteria related to clarity, specificity and practicability (this stage took place at a 2 day conference organised by our research team at the Kavli Royal Society International Centre).
Collaborator Contribution The collaboration was led by our research group at Loughborough University. All partner institutions engaged in the collaborative exercise set up (please see the section above for an outline of this process).
Impact A conference that took place at the Kavli Royal Society International Centre resulted in the following publication which is in press: Alcock, L., Ansari, D., Batchelor, S., Bisson, M.-J., De Smedt, B., Gilmore, C., Goebel, S. M., Hannula-Sormunen, M., Hodgen, J., Inglis, M., Jones, I., Mazzocco, M., McNeil, N., Schneider, M., Simms, V., & Weber, K. (in press). Challenges in mathematical cognition: A collaboratively-derived research agenda. Journal of Numerical Cognition. Multidisciplinary collaboration: Education, Psychology, Neuroscience.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Grand Challenges in Mathematical Cognition 
Organisation University of Leuven
Department Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences
Country Belgium 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The contribution of my research team was to organise a collaborative exercise designed to generate a coherent agenda for research on mathematical cognition. Following an established method, the exercise brought together 16 mathematical cognition researchers from across the fields of mathematics education, psychology and neuroscience. All partner institutions were invited to engage in a process in which they: -Generated an initial list of research questions with the potential to significantly advance understanding of mathematical cognition; -Winnowed this list to a smaller set of priority questions; -Refined the eventual questions to meet criteria related to clarity, specificity and practicability (this stage took place at a 2 day conference organised by our research team at the Kavli Royal Society International Centre).
Collaborator Contribution The collaboration was led by our research group at Loughborough University. All partner institutions engaged in the collaborative exercise set up (please see the section above for an outline of this process).
Impact A conference that took place at the Kavli Royal Society International Centre resulted in the following publication which is in press: Alcock, L., Ansari, D., Batchelor, S., Bisson, M.-J., De Smedt, B., Gilmore, C., Goebel, S. M., Hannula-Sormunen, M., Hodgen, J., Inglis, M., Jones, I., Mazzocco, M., McNeil, N., Schneider, M., Simms, V., & Weber, K. (in press). Challenges in mathematical cognition: A collaboratively-derived research agenda. Journal of Numerical Cognition. Multidisciplinary collaboration: Education, Psychology, Neuroscience.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Grand Challenges in Mathematical Cognition 
Organisation University of Minnesota
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The contribution of my research team was to organise a collaborative exercise designed to generate a coherent agenda for research on mathematical cognition. Following an established method, the exercise brought together 16 mathematical cognition researchers from across the fields of mathematics education, psychology and neuroscience. All partner institutions were invited to engage in a process in which they: -Generated an initial list of research questions with the potential to significantly advance understanding of mathematical cognition; -Winnowed this list to a smaller set of priority questions; -Refined the eventual questions to meet criteria related to clarity, specificity and practicability (this stage took place at a 2 day conference organised by our research team at the Kavli Royal Society International Centre).
Collaborator Contribution The collaboration was led by our research group at Loughborough University. All partner institutions engaged in the collaborative exercise set up (please see the section above for an outline of this process).
Impact A conference that took place at the Kavli Royal Society International Centre resulted in the following publication which is in press: Alcock, L., Ansari, D., Batchelor, S., Bisson, M.-J., De Smedt, B., Gilmore, C., Goebel, S. M., Hannula-Sormunen, M., Hodgen, J., Inglis, M., Jones, I., Mazzocco, M., McNeil, N., Schneider, M., Simms, V., & Weber, K. (in press). Challenges in mathematical cognition: A collaboratively-derived research agenda. Journal of Numerical Cognition. Multidisciplinary collaboration: Education, Psychology, Neuroscience.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Grand Challenges in Mathematical Cognition 
Organisation University of Notre Dame
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The contribution of my research team was to organise a collaborative exercise designed to generate a coherent agenda for research on mathematical cognition. Following an established method, the exercise brought together 16 mathematical cognition researchers from across the fields of mathematics education, psychology and neuroscience. All partner institutions were invited to engage in a process in which they: -Generated an initial list of research questions with the potential to significantly advance understanding of mathematical cognition; -Winnowed this list to a smaller set of priority questions; -Refined the eventual questions to meet criteria related to clarity, specificity and practicability (this stage took place at a 2 day conference organised by our research team at the Kavli Royal Society International Centre).
Collaborator Contribution The collaboration was led by our research group at Loughborough University. All partner institutions engaged in the collaborative exercise set up (please see the section above for an outline of this process).
Impact A conference that took place at the Kavli Royal Society International Centre resulted in the following publication which is in press: Alcock, L., Ansari, D., Batchelor, S., Bisson, M.-J., De Smedt, B., Gilmore, C., Goebel, S. M., Hannula-Sormunen, M., Hodgen, J., Inglis, M., Jones, I., Mazzocco, M., McNeil, N., Schneider, M., Simms, V., & Weber, K. (in press). Challenges in mathematical cognition: A collaboratively-derived research agenda. Journal of Numerical Cognition. Multidisciplinary collaboration: Education, Psychology, Neuroscience.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Grand Challenges in Mathematical Cognition 
Organisation University of Nottingham
Department School of Education Nottingham
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The contribution of my research team was to organise a collaborative exercise designed to generate a coherent agenda for research on mathematical cognition. Following an established method, the exercise brought together 16 mathematical cognition researchers from across the fields of mathematics education, psychology and neuroscience. All partner institutions were invited to engage in a process in which they: -Generated an initial list of research questions with the potential to significantly advance understanding of mathematical cognition; -Winnowed this list to a smaller set of priority questions; -Refined the eventual questions to meet criteria related to clarity, specificity and practicability (this stage took place at a 2 day conference organised by our research team at the Kavli Royal Society International Centre).
Collaborator Contribution The collaboration was led by our research group at Loughborough University. All partner institutions engaged in the collaborative exercise set up (please see the section above for an outline of this process).
Impact A conference that took place at the Kavli Royal Society International Centre resulted in the following publication which is in press: Alcock, L., Ansari, D., Batchelor, S., Bisson, M.-J., De Smedt, B., Gilmore, C., Goebel, S. M., Hannula-Sormunen, M., Hodgen, J., Inglis, M., Jones, I., Mazzocco, M., McNeil, N., Schneider, M., Simms, V., & Weber, K. (in press). Challenges in mathematical cognition: A collaboratively-derived research agenda. Journal of Numerical Cognition. Multidisciplinary collaboration: Education, Psychology, Neuroscience.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Grand Challenges in Mathematical Cognition 
Organisation University of Trier
Country Germany 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The contribution of my research team was to organise a collaborative exercise designed to generate a coherent agenda for research on mathematical cognition. Following an established method, the exercise brought together 16 mathematical cognition researchers from across the fields of mathematics education, psychology and neuroscience. All partner institutions were invited to engage in a process in which they: -Generated an initial list of research questions with the potential to significantly advance understanding of mathematical cognition; -Winnowed this list to a smaller set of priority questions; -Refined the eventual questions to meet criteria related to clarity, specificity and practicability (this stage took place at a 2 day conference organised by our research team at the Kavli Royal Society International Centre).
Collaborator Contribution The collaboration was led by our research group at Loughborough University. All partner institutions engaged in the collaborative exercise set up (please see the section above for an outline of this process).
Impact A conference that took place at the Kavli Royal Society International Centre resulted in the following publication which is in press: Alcock, L., Ansari, D., Batchelor, S., Bisson, M.-J., De Smedt, B., Gilmore, C., Goebel, S. M., Hannula-Sormunen, M., Hodgen, J., Inglis, M., Jones, I., Mazzocco, M., McNeil, N., Schneider, M., Simms, V., & Weber, K. (in press). Challenges in mathematical cognition: A collaboratively-derived research agenda. Journal of Numerical Cognition. Multidisciplinary collaboration: Education, Psychology, Neuroscience.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Grand Challenges in Mathematical Cognition 
Organisation University of Turku
Country Finland 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The contribution of my research team was to organise a collaborative exercise designed to generate a coherent agenda for research on mathematical cognition. Following an established method, the exercise brought together 16 mathematical cognition researchers from across the fields of mathematics education, psychology and neuroscience. All partner institutions were invited to engage in a process in which they: -Generated an initial list of research questions with the potential to significantly advance understanding of mathematical cognition; -Winnowed this list to a smaller set of priority questions; -Refined the eventual questions to meet criteria related to clarity, specificity and practicability (this stage took place at a 2 day conference organised by our research team at the Kavli Royal Society International Centre).
Collaborator Contribution The collaboration was led by our research group at Loughborough University. All partner institutions engaged in the collaborative exercise set up (please see the section above for an outline of this process).
Impact A conference that took place at the Kavli Royal Society International Centre resulted in the following publication which is in press: Alcock, L., Ansari, D., Batchelor, S., Bisson, M.-J., De Smedt, B., Gilmore, C., Goebel, S. M., Hannula-Sormunen, M., Hodgen, J., Inglis, M., Jones, I., Mazzocco, M., McNeil, N., Schneider, M., Simms, V., & Weber, K. (in press). Challenges in mathematical cognition: A collaboratively-derived research agenda. Journal of Numerical Cognition. Multidisciplinary collaboration: Education, Psychology, Neuroscience.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Grand Challenges in Mathematical Cognition 
Organisation University of York
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The contribution of my research team was to organise a collaborative exercise designed to generate a coherent agenda for research on mathematical cognition. Following an established method, the exercise brought together 16 mathematical cognition researchers from across the fields of mathematics education, psychology and neuroscience. All partner institutions were invited to engage in a process in which they: -Generated an initial list of research questions with the potential to significantly advance understanding of mathematical cognition; -Winnowed this list to a smaller set of priority questions; -Refined the eventual questions to meet criteria related to clarity, specificity and practicability (this stage took place at a 2 day conference organised by our research team at the Kavli Royal Society International Centre).
Collaborator Contribution The collaboration was led by our research group at Loughborough University. All partner institutions engaged in the collaborative exercise set up (please see the section above for an outline of this process).
Impact A conference that took place at the Kavli Royal Society International Centre resulted in the following publication which is in press: Alcock, L., Ansari, D., Batchelor, S., Bisson, M.-J., De Smedt, B., Gilmore, C., Goebel, S. M., Hannula-Sormunen, M., Hodgen, J., Inglis, M., Jones, I., Mazzocco, M., McNeil, N., Schneider, M., Simms, V., & Weber, K. (in press). Challenges in mathematical cognition: A collaboratively-derived research agenda. Journal of Numerical Cognition. Multidisciplinary collaboration: Education, Psychology, Neuroscience.
Start Year 2014
 
Description Grand Challenges in Mathematical Cognition 
Organisation Western University
Country Canada 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The contribution of my research team was to organise a collaborative exercise designed to generate a coherent agenda for research on mathematical cognition. Following an established method, the exercise brought together 16 mathematical cognition researchers from across the fields of mathematics education, psychology and neuroscience. All partner institutions were invited to engage in a process in which they: -Generated an initial list of research questions with the potential to significantly advance understanding of mathematical cognition; -Winnowed this list to a smaller set of priority questions; -Refined the eventual questions to meet criteria related to clarity, specificity and practicability (this stage took place at a 2 day conference organised by our research team at the Kavli Royal Society International Centre).
Collaborator Contribution The collaboration was led by our research group at Loughborough University. All partner institutions engaged in the collaborative exercise set up (please see the section above for an outline of this process).
Impact A conference that took place at the Kavli Royal Society International Centre resulted in the following publication which is in press: Alcock, L., Ansari, D., Batchelor, S., Bisson, M.-J., De Smedt, B., Gilmore, C., Goebel, S. M., Hannula-Sormunen, M., Hodgen, J., Inglis, M., Jones, I., Mazzocco, M., McNeil, N., Schneider, M., Simms, V., & Weber, K. (in press). Challenges in mathematical cognition: A collaboratively-derived research agenda. Journal of Numerical Cognition. Multidisciplinary collaboration: Education, Psychology, Neuroscience.
Start Year 2014
 
Description International Comparison of Children's Attention and Learning 
Organisation Ulster University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We are conducting a cross cultural comparison study in four countries: England, Northern Ireland, Belgium and Finland. My contribution as principle investigator in England is to: 1) Design the study and prepare all necessary materials. 2) Recruit, train and supervise research associate staff employed on the project in England and Northern Ireland. Also assist with the training and supervision of research associate staff in Belgium and Finland. 3) Contribute to the leadership of the network of European collaborators working on the project. 4) Oversee the research project budget in England. 5) Gather and collate the data and analyse the findings (pilot data has been gathered and data collection for the main study is in progress). 6) Disseminate results via peer reviewed publications in high impact journals and at national and international conference presentations.
Collaborator Contribution Collaborators in Northern Ireland, Belgium and Finland have contributed to: 1) Study design and preparation of materials. 2) Recruitment, training and supervision of research associate staff employed in their own country. 3) Leadership of the network. 4) Data gathering, collation and analysis. 5) Dissemination of the results.
Impact Oral presentation at the second workshop of the international scientific network, entitled "Providing Support for Student Learning: Cornerstone findings, implications and recommendations from Cognitive Psychology for the Teaching of STEM", which took place from October 14 - 16 2015 in the Irish College, Leuven. This collaboration is multi-disciplinary involving researchers from Education and Psychology.
Start Year 2014
 
Description International Comparison of Children's Attention and Learning 
Organisation University of Leuven
Department Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences
Country Belgium 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We are conducting a cross cultural comparison study in four countries: England, Northern Ireland, Belgium and Finland. My contribution as principle investigator in England is to: 1) Design the study and prepare all necessary materials. 2) Recruit, train and supervise research associate staff employed on the project in England and Northern Ireland. Also assist with the training and supervision of research associate staff in Belgium and Finland. 3) Contribute to the leadership of the network of European collaborators working on the project. 4) Oversee the research project budget in England. 5) Gather and collate the data and analyse the findings (pilot data has been gathered and data collection for the main study is in progress). 6) Disseminate results via peer reviewed publications in high impact journals and at national and international conference presentations.
Collaborator Contribution Collaborators in Northern Ireland, Belgium and Finland have contributed to: 1) Study design and preparation of materials. 2) Recruitment, training and supervision of research associate staff employed in their own country. 3) Leadership of the network. 4) Data gathering, collation and analysis. 5) Dissemination of the results.
Impact Oral presentation at the second workshop of the international scientific network, entitled "Providing Support for Student Learning: Cornerstone findings, implications and recommendations from Cognitive Psychology for the Teaching of STEM", which took place from October 14 - 16 2015 in the Irish College, Leuven. This collaboration is multi-disciplinary involving researchers from Education and Psychology.
Start Year 2014
 
Description International Comparison of Children's Attention and Learning 
Organisation University of Turku
Country Finland 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We are conducting a cross cultural comparison study in four countries: England, Northern Ireland, Belgium and Finland. My contribution as principle investigator in England is to: 1) Design the study and prepare all necessary materials. 2) Recruit, train and supervise research associate staff employed on the project in England and Northern Ireland. Also assist with the training and supervision of research associate staff in Belgium and Finland. 3) Contribute to the leadership of the network of European collaborators working on the project. 4) Oversee the research project budget in England. 5) Gather and collate the data and analyse the findings (pilot data has been gathered and data collection for the main study is in progress). 6) Disseminate results via peer reviewed publications in high impact journals and at national and international conference presentations.
Collaborator Contribution Collaborators in Northern Ireland, Belgium and Finland have contributed to: 1) Study design and preparation of materials. 2) Recruitment, training and supervision of research associate staff employed in their own country. 3) Leadership of the network. 4) Data gathering, collation and analysis. 5) Dissemination of the results.
Impact Oral presentation at the second workshop of the international scientific network, entitled "Providing Support for Student Learning: Cornerstone findings, implications and recommendations from Cognitive Psychology for the Teaching of STEM", which took place from October 14 - 16 2015 in the Irish College, Leuven. This collaboration is multi-disciplinary involving researchers from Education and Psychology.
Start Year 2014
 
Description 1st Annual Sammatti Expert Meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact I was invited by Professor Minna Hannula-Sormunen (University of Turku) to be part of this expert meeting in Finland (30 June 2016). I was one of 14 researchers who participated, and participants came from Europe and Australia. The meeting focused on the use of latent variable mixture models in mathematical development research. In the meeting we shared shared strategies for formulating research questions and choosing the right analysis type. The meeting helped to support (and extend) ongoing collaborations. There are plans for similar expert meetings in the future.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Career information session for UG students in the School of Science (Loughborough University) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact The School of Science ATHENA Swan committee organised a career event for UG interested in finding out more about PhDs and research careers. I contributed to this event by giving a talk about my research and my overall experience as a PhD student and ESRC postdoctoral research fellow. Attendance levels at this event were lower than expected but the students who did attend were engaged - they asked questions and requested further information and advice.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Contributions to the MEC's Research Update Newsletter 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact The MEC's Research Update newsletter is sent out termly to 120 schools nationwide (it is also made available online). The newsletter has sparked interest from teachers, some of whom have contacted us and asked how they can get involved with our projects. I am currently working with a school in Lincolnshire who contacted us following the publication of our last newsletter in December 2015.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2015,2018
URL http://www.lboro.ac.uk/departments/mec/research/researchupdate/
 
Description Engaging Students in Research 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact I have engaged students in research activity: (i) by supervising mathematics education and statistics project students, and (ii) by recruiting, training and mentoring undergraduate and postgraduate research assistants (from the Psychology programme). I have actively involved these students in various aspects of the research process including study design, data collection, data analysis and the write-up of findings. Students have been invited to attend training sessions and research group meetings to facilitate their learning and professional development. Two of these students are going on to do further study (MSc/PhD) in a related field.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016,2017,2018
 
Description Graduate School Research Training Workshop on Funding Applications and Fellowships (Loughborough) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Over 60 PhD students and postdocs attended a research training workshop on funding applications and fellowships. I contributed to the event by giving a talk about my research and my experience of applying for postdoctoral research funding. The session was well attended and subsequent training events are now being organised as a result. The most significant outcome form my perspective were the direct requests for further information. Since the workshop I have had email exchanges with a handful of the students who attended the session. I have also been asked to contribute to similar events which occur once a semester.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016
 
Description Invited Seminar (Turku, Finland) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact This was an invited talk at the Department of Teacher Education, University of Turku, Finland (October 2015). The audience was comprised of academics, teachers and postgraduate students. The title of the talk was 'Children's spontaneous focusing on numerosity and the development of early numerical skills.' The talk sparked questions and discussion afterwards and provided a good opportunity to plan future projects with my collaborators in Finland.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Invited Seminar (UWO, Canada) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact This was an invited talk at the Numerical Cognition Laboratory, Brain and Mind Institute, University of Western Ontario, Canada (July 2015). The audience was comprised of academics, postdocs and postgraduate students. The title of the talk was 'Spontaneous focusing on numerosity and the development of early numerical skills.' The talk sparked questions and discussion afterwards and provided a good opportunity to discuss possible future collaborations.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Invited Seminar (Ulster) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact This was an invited talk at the School of Psychology, Ulster University (February 2016). The audience was a mixture of academics and PhD students and the talk was particularly aimed at the PhD students. The title of the talk was 'Understanding the development of early numerical skills: My progress from PhD student to ESRC Post-Doctoral Fellow.' The talk generated questions and discussion afterwards. I have since been asked for further information about my postdoctoral experiences. i have also received requests to use my research tasks.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Invited talk at the BSRLM New Researchers' Day 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact An invited plenary talk at the British Society for Research into Learning Mathematics (BSRLM)'s New Researchers' Day (June 2016). The talk focused on developing and validating research tasks. It was a methodological talk using examples from my current research. There were approximately 30-40 delegates from around the UK. The talk stimulated discussion, and I had two email requests for further information afterwards.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://www.bsrlm.org.uk/new-researchers-day/
 
Description NumberStart website and resources for preschool children and parents 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact The NumberStart website is a project website aimed at parents of preschool children. It provides project information and early number resources for parents. It is designed to accompany a set of physical resources created for participants taking part in the NumberStart intervention study/studies. Whilst the studies are running the resources are password protected. The website will also include information about research findings once the project is complete. There are no known impacts as of yet.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018
URL https://numberstart.wordpress.com/
 
Description Poster presented at the 3rd Annual Math Cognition Conference, University of Missouri, St. Louis. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Conference Title: Typical and Atypical Development of Complex Arithmetic Skills and Higher-Order Math Concepts*
Conference Date: May 18-19, 2015
Conference Location: University of Missouri-St. Louis
Conference Attendance: Attendance at this meeting was limited to the conference speakers, poster presenters selected through a competition, and other invited researchers and guests.

I was one of twelve early career researchers to be invited to present a poster at this international conference on mathematical cognition. The conference gave me the opportunity to share my recent research findings and to expand my international links with world leading researchers in mathematical cognition.

As a result of discussions at this conference I have been contacted by two researchers in the US who requested further information and are now using the tasks/methods I have developed to measure children's spontaneous focusing on numerosity.

Batchelor, S., Gilmore, C., & Inglis, M. (2015, May). Children's spontaneous focusing on numerosity and the arithmetic advantage . Poster presented at the 3rd Annual Math Cognition Conference, University of Missouri, St. Louis.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Poster presented at the Royal Society Scientific Meeting: The origins of numerical abilities 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Conference Title: The origins of numerical abilities.
Conference Date: Feb 20-21, 2017.
Conference Location: Royal Society London.
Conference Attendance: This conference was open to all who wished to attend. I had a poster accepted for presentation through the poster competition for early career researchers. The conference provided an opportunity to share recent research findings and to meet international researchers in the field. I was able to meet with other researchers with whom I've only before had email contact with. We discussed research plans and the sharing of research tasks.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://royalsociety.org/science-events-and-lectures/2017/02/numerical-abilities/
 
Description Poster presented at the fifth annual Math Cognition Conference in Nashville, Tennessee 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Conference Title: Improving Mathematical Cognition and Learning: Formal and Informal Instructional Influences & Interventions.
Conference Date: May 15-16, 2017.
Conference Location: Vanderbilt University.
Conference Attendance: This upcoming conference is open to all who wish to attend. Poster presenters are selected through a competition. Jayne Pickering (former Research Assistant) on this project had a poster accepted and has received funding to attend the event. The conference will provide the opportunity to share recent research findings from the project and to expand international links with world leading researchers in mathematical cognition. (Note that following a previous meeting of this group, I was invited to visit Professor Michele Mazzocco's Math and Numeracy Lab (University of Minnesota) to collaborate on a research project looking at children's spontaneous focusing on numerosity. I am currently arranging a suitable time for this visit.) There is no impact from this upcoming meeting as of yet.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://sites.google.com/site/mathcognitionconferences/
 
Description School visits (Nottingham and Leicester) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact A series of meetings to disseminate the project findings to teachers at participating schools. The format of these varied depending on the school, ranging from informal discussions and circulation of project newsletters, to formal presentations during staff meetings.

The meetings sparked questions and discussion and the majority of teachers reported that it increased their awareness of the factors affecting the development of children's early mathematical skills. For example, at one school in Leicester, 12 of the 13 teachers stated that it had broadened their understanding of the reasons why children may have difficulties with mathematics, and that the information in the session would help to inform their classroom practice.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018
 
Description Spring/Summer Scientist Week (Nottingham) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Spring/Summer Scientist Week is annual event which brings together children and parents with researchers in developmental psychology. Each year (during either the Easter or Summer holidays), families are invited to spend half a day at the university to play lots of fun games that help us with our research. By taking part, children (and parents) get to learn about how the mind and brain work by experiencing real science first-hand. The event is widely attended by over 500 children and their parents. On the summer scientist website there is more information about the event (photographs, newsletters etc) together with some feedback from parents and children that attended last year.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011,2012,2013,2014,2015
URL https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/psychology/careers-outreach/spring-scientist-week/spring-scientist-week...
 
Description Talk at the International Scientific Network Meeting (Leuven) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Oral presentation at the second workshop of the international scientific network (University of Leuven).
Title of the meeting: 'Providing Support for Student Learning: Cornerstone findings, implications and recommendations from Cognitive Psychology for the Teaching of STEM'
Date of the meeting: October 14 - 16 2015 i
Location of the meeting: Irish College, Leuven.
Title of presentation: Action and verbally based measures of spontaneous focusing on numerosity in relation to arithmetical skills in 4- and 7-year-old children

This activity was multi-disciplinary involving researchers from Education and Psychology. There were 45-50 attendees. This International Scientific Network is an ongoing collaboration.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Teacher consultations 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact A series of face-to-face and virtual consultations with 6 teachers on the project's Teacher Panel. The teachers have given feedback and advice on the timing and appropriateness of project materials such as study information sheets, questionnaires and newsletters. The teachers have been interested in the topic area and are supportive of plans for future related activities.

I have also seen impact in terms of changes in view/opinions/behaviours. For example, one teacher that I've worked with regularly over the last few years recently told me that they've got rid of the maths corner in their foundation classrooms because maths is everywhere and they try to embed maths activities in all areas. This comment followed a lot of discussions that we'd had and it nicely captures that nature of my research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2015,2016,2017
 
Description University open days 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Prospective students and parents visited the university. During the departmental tours I talked about my current research and opportunities for undergraduates to get involved with research activities whilst studying.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018
 
Description Workshops/Seminars for trainee mathematics teachers (PGCE workshop) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact A series of one off workshops for the mathematics PGCE students at Loughborough University. The workshops focused on dispositional factors affecting children's learning in mathematics and in particular on mathematics anxiety.

The workshop sparked questions and discussion and the students later reported that it increased their awareness of the topic area and informed their classroom practice. For example, 14 of the 16 students from the 2015/16 cohort stated that it had changed their understanding of mathematics anxiety.

One student stated: "I never thought of maths anxiety as an issue before this".
Another student said that "[maths anxiety] is more wide reaching and less determinable than I thought before"

Within this same cohort all 16 students reported that the information in the session was useful for informing their future classroom practice.

One student said: "I'll take into account factors which are affected by maths anxiety (eg. not overloading instructions)."
Another student reported that they would "choose gender-neutral examples" and "don't highlight the differences between boys and girls". The same student said that it was "interesting to see a lot of research doesn't support the idea of gender differences in maths anxiety".
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2015,2016,2017