In this TILE Webinar on “Influences On Early Mathematical Skills: What Counts?” by Dr Victoria Simms she shared her research on this topic and provided some practical guidelines resulting from rigorous research.


In her talk, Dr Simms makes a case for evidence-based education, but she sets out a definition that emphasises the importance of an equal partnership between researchers and teachers. The working together and learning from each other is the aspect that will make any evidence-based approach a successful one.


Dr Simms uses the ‘Bioecological Systems Theory’ by Bronfenbrenner (1979) to provide a framework for her research and highlights how the different systems that the individual learner is embedded in can guide research and application of findings in practice.


Guided by that framework, Dr Simms presents various studies:


  1. Study with very pre-term birth children looking at their cognitive skills. Here she provides a nuanced picture of the cognitive aspects associated with pre-term birth and identifies two areas – working memory and visuo-spatial skill – that can explain math specific difficulties in pre-term children.
  2. Study on different ‘number skills’ pathway profiles that students fall into depending on their comprehension and development of numerical skills over time. Here she shows that working memory, vocabulary, and socio-economic status were stong predictors of which pathway children could be categorised into.
  3. Systematic review on mathematical interventions to improve math outcomes in primary children.

The talk is concluded by a wide range of resources and practical tips.

All materials can be found in this post.


In this talk I will summarise a number of studies that investigate the development of early mathematical skills. The talk will explore the influence of domain specific and domain general skills, as well as the home environment, on early mathematical development. Reflecting on our recent reviews of class-room practice and mathematical interventions, I will discuss how “basic” developmental and cognitive research may influence practice.


About the speaker:
Dr Victoria Simms is a developmental psychologist with a specific interest in how children’s thinking changes over time. Victoria’s research program focuses on the development of mathematical cognition, both in typical and atypical populations. Victoria also researches cognitive and educational outcomes of children who were born very preterm. Victoria’s work aims to develop effective interventions to ensure that children can fulfil their educational potential. You can follow her on Twitter: @DrVicSimms.