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How can we support early mathematical skills in children?

   Department of Psychology

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  Dr E Blakey  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Maths skills at school entry predict a child’s academic success across a range of domains both concurrently and years later. Furthermore, there is an achievement gap between children from lower socioeconomic homes compared to children from higher socioeconomic homes. There is therefore an important need to identify what skills predict early maths so that interventions can be effectively targeted. Our research work has identified that executive function and language seem to be key mechanisms through which inequalities in mathematical skills arise. Furthermore, our research has found that parent home mathematical skills do not seem to be predicting early mathematical skills which seems surprising. It’s not yet clear whether we need to measure this in a different way or if this is a genuine finding and developments are mostly driven by cognitive skills. A project in this area would examine the key mechanisms explaining early attainment gaps longitudinally or run a randomised control trial to causally test potential mechanisms.

The PhD researcher will be part of the Sheffield Cognitive Development lab and be able to make use of our excellent links with local nurseries and schools, extensive family volunteer database and testing facilities. Please see our website for more information about the lab:

Psychology (31)

Funding Notes

Self funded or externally sponsored students only. Intakes are usually October and March annually.
NB The University has some scholarships under competition each year. More details can be found -


Blakey, E., Matthews, D., Cragg, L., Buck, J., Cameron, D., Higgins, B., Pepper, L., Ridley, E., Sullivan, E., & Carroll, D.J. (2020). The Role of Executive Functions in Socioeconomic Attainment Gaps: Results from a Randomized Controlled Trial. Child Development, 91, 1594-1614.
Elliott & Bachman (2018) SES disparities in early math abilities: The contributions of parents’ math cognitions, practices to support math, and math talk. Developmental Review, 49,1-15.

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