Optimising pre-schoolers' working memory and numerical processing capabilities

Project Number

Project Duration
June 2017 - May 2022


Children with higher mathematics scores at 7 years of age tend to command a higher salary as adults and experience better psychological and health outcomes. Despite the importance of mathematical skills, there are gaps in (a) our knowledge regarding the early predictors of later mathematical success, and (b) how to help pre-schoolers build solid foundations for mathematics learning. These issues will be examined in three interconnected projects. Using behavioural and neuroimaging techniques, in Project 1, we will examine the neuroanatomical correlates of numeracy development from 4.5 to 6.5 years of age with a view towards identifying markers that will predict mathematics learning difficulties. Such markers will also be used to understand differences in rates of growth in numeracy skill and in responses to intervention. A domain-general cognitive capability that has consistently predicted mathematical achievement is our ability to process and remember information simultaneously: working memory. Studies have shown that even amongst pre-schoolers, working memory and mathematical achievement exhibit variation across socio-economic strata. However, the processes that underlie these relations are unclear. In Project 2, we examine candidate processes related to parenting quality and examine how variation across socio-economic strata influences growth in working memory and numeracy. Using a cross-sequential longitudinal design, we will supplement efforts from an on-going study. Capitalising on findings from the other two projects, in Project 3, we will design a computerised working memory and numeracy intervention protocol for pre-schoolers. Using a randomised controlled design with an immediate and delayed evaluation, we will collect both behavioural and neuroimaging data; first to evaluate the efficacy of the intervention, but also to identify the characteristics of children who exhibit different patterns of response to intervention.

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