Childrens maths difficulties research wins top award

Leicester researchers who investigated why children who are born prematurely struggle with maths have scooped a top national award for excellence in research.

The British Psychological Society Neil O’Connor Award has been awarded to the team for The Premature Infants’ Skills in Mathematics (PRISM) Study, funded by Action Medical Research and led by Dr Samantha Johnson of the Department of Health Sciences and TIMMS research group.

During the study the researchers assessed the learning and maths skills of a group of children who were born very prematurely, before 32 weeks of pregnancy, and a group of children who were born after a full pregnancy. They found that premature children were more likely to have difficulties with maths in primary school and showed, for the first time, that these stemmed from problems with memory and hand-eye coordination.

A paper reporting these pioneering findings was published in Pediatric Research earlier this year - and has now been awarded the British Psychological Society Neil O’Connor Award for excellence in the field of understanding the nature and causes of developmental disabilities.

The research team has just received a second grant from Action Medical Research to follow-up with the children who took part in the PRISM Study to find out how their maths skills are developing now they are in secondary school. The team are also developing an intervention for teachers to provide them with the skills they need to support premature children’s learning in school.