Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


Learning&Achievement Report Summary

Project ID: 338065
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: United Kingdom

Periodic Report Summary 2 - LEARNING&ACHIEVEMENT (Cognitive and Biological Factors of Mathematical Learning and Achievement)

Numeracy is the ability to understand and apply numerical concepts. Substantial aspects of numeracy include basic numerical understanding, operational understanding (e.g., addition, subtraction, and multiplication), computation, measurement, geometry, probability, and statistics. Numerical competence has a profound influence on an individual’s educational success, employment opportunities, income, and even physical and mental health. Most importantly, however, one’s level of numeracy affects not only one’s wellbeing, but also society in general. For example, low numeracy has been suggested to reduce the growth rates of gross domestic product, and increase public spending.

Crucially, the specific developmental factors that determine high, average, or low numeracy achievement are still poorly understood. In the current project we address this gap in a comprehensive fashion by examining the link between cognitive and non-cognitive factors and different brain indices from childhood through young adulthood for different numeracy levels. Currently we are using an innovative multimethod approach that integrates cognitive and developmental psychology with neuromodulation, neurophysiology and neurochemistry. So far we have shown that expertise in mathematics can be predicted by basic numerical abilities, and that this link between basic and exceptional mathematical abilities is explained by improved visuospatial abilities. In addition, at the biological level, we have characterised for the first time that the ability to learn a skill in childhood is predicted by the level of cortical excitation and inhibition, which has been so far limited to animal models. The current results motivate us to examine the changes at the psychological and biological levels to provide a better understanding of cognitive learning in the field of mathematics, from school age till young adulthood. Such foundational knowledge should ultimately improve our knowledge of mathematical learning and cognition with substantive benefits for the fields of psychology, education and neuroscience. Moreover, this advancement in scientific understanding is likely to have translational impact for typically and atypically developing children and adults, and thus potentially will have significant wider societal implications.

Reported by

United Kingdom
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