Title: Science Learning, Education and Cognitive Neuroscience

Summary: Effective science education requires both imparting knowledge and developing cognitive resources and strategies, especially reasoning skills, to meaningfully integrate that knowledge for deep understanding and innovation in the sciences. Work presented in this symposium engages the neural “how” of effective science education by investigating howknowledge is represented in the brain, and how learning-related changes in the developing brain support the development of scientific reasoning capacities. Attention will be paid to differences in efficacy between educational strategies, including consideration of science reading strategies, intensive reasoning training, spatially based approaches to STEM learning, and individual differences in learning styles that can inform selection of educational strategies. The translation of this science to real-world learning will be a major theme, including research that is testing hypotheses from the educational cognitive neuroscience lab by investigating the impact of real-world high school STEM education on structural and functional plasticity in the brain. By engaging the how of science learning, the presented work informs fundamental neural mechanisms that transcend cultural boundaries, providing a strong basis for cross-cultural collaboration. Investigations of individual differences in the neurocognition of learning also have the potential to support efforts at reducing inequalities in STEM achievement across demographic groups. Panel discussion among the presenting authors will directly address questions of translation to real-world learning environments, and cross-cultural engagement in STEM.

                                                                                                Discussant: Robert A. Kolvoord, James Madison University



Silvia A. Bunge, University of California at Berkeley:  Neural mechanisms, development, and plasticity of reasoning.

Adam E. Green (Chair), Georgetown University:  School-Based Improvements in Spatial Relational Neurocognition: Testing Hypotheses from the Cognitive Neuroscience Lab in Real-World High Schools.

David J.M. Kraemer, Dartmouth College: Individual Differences in STEM Cognition: Neural and Behavioral Evidence.

Christian D. Schunn, University of Pittsburgh: When and why good science reading strategies go awry: insights from fMRI.

Title: New Neuroimaging Insights Into the Brain Bases of Typical Reading and Reading Disorders

Summary: Functional neuroimaging of reading is entering its third decade, and continues to generate considerable ongoing interest. Of note is the wealth of new information about how literacy development changes the brain, and about the neural markers of developmental dyslexia. Yet we continue to struggle with question of how to apply these findings to understanding, identifying and ameliorating reading disorders. This symposium brings together experts who are using cutting-edge neuroimaging techniques to examine typical reading development and reading impairment in children. Talks will present data from multiple neuroimaging modalities including fMRI and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), as well as event-related potentials (ERPs). Of special interest are studies that link neuroimaging data to individuals’ behavioral and genetic markers. A key goal of the symposium is to present findings in a way that is informative to researchers interested in the application of basic science to clinical and educational settings. That is, this research focuses much less on questions of “which brain region does what”, and instead seeks to be relevant to how reading researchers approach issues concerning the identification of reading disorders, competing views about instructional techniques in the classroom, and the efficacy of intervention methodologies.

                                                                                             Discussant: Maureen Lovett, SickKids, University of Toronto 



Marc Joanisse (U. Western Ontario)- Identifying perceptual weaknesses in dyslexia and language impairment using event-related potentials and EEG  

Jeffrey Malins (Haskins Laboratories): Using fMRI to predict response to intervention for reading disability 

James Booth (U. Texas Austin): Interactivity between orthographic and phonological representations in reading development and disability

Jeffrey Gruen (Yale University): Combining fMRI with genetics to study reading disorders in children

Kurt Fischer Symposium in Mind, Brain and Education

Title: Translational Work in Mind, Brain and Education: Mapping the Field 

Summary: The emerging and interdisciplinary field of Mind, Brain, and Education is addressing a number of intriguing challenges.  Clear theoretical boundaries do not yet exist, and there is not a unifying set of methodological and conceptual tools that define the field.  In fact, such an outcome may lack the same relevance that it has for disciplines or subdisciplines because the number of tools and the ways in which they are being used in MBE is still growing.  Thus, defining individual work within the framework of MBE requires students and researchers new to the field to recognize the processes that underscore the mission of IMBES, as well as the kind of work emerging from the field.

This presentation will explore the unique ways in which researchers in IMBES have been pursuing research with MBE as an organizing framework.  Each presentation will address and balance two different goals:  (1) providing a selection of key theoretical and methodological approaches used by the researcher; and, (2) mapping out the researchers’ journeys reflecting more serendipitous events and insights that guided their work in MBE. The dual approach supports a more complex picture of how the researchers gained critical basic knowledge that is relevant to the MBE community, while also helping the audience think strategically about how to pursue their own work in MBE.


Marc Schwartz, The University of Texas at Arlington


Joanna Christodoulou, MGH Institute of Health Professions


Donna Coch, Dartmouth College


Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, University of Southern California


Juliana Pare-Blagoev, Johns Hopkins University

Title: Spatial Thinking and STEM Education

Summary: Spatial thinking is critically important for education, particularly in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). Enhancing spatial thinking therefore could improve performance in STEM courses, which are often notoriously challenging. In the current symposium, we discuss enhancement in spatial thinking from two perspectives:

(1) Developmental Factors: Spatial thinking is an overarching cognitive construct comprising distinct spatial skills. Spatial navigation, an important spatial skill, is a complex cognitive process imperative for our everyday functioning in the environment. Understanding developmental factors influencing individual differences in spatial navigation can aid in designing timely interventions.  Adolescence is a time of increasing mobility and independent navigation for young people, yet we know little about how large-scale spatial thinking changes during this period. In the first two presentations, we discuss findings from two independent studies examining spatial navigation in pre-adolescence and adolescence.  Collectively, we present spatial navigation findings for participants ranging from 8 years to 19 years of age.  In both studies, participants completed a test of small-scale spatial perspective taking (Spatial Orientation Test, Hegarty & Waller, 2004) and explored a novel virtual environment (Silcton; Weisberg et al, 2014). Following exploration, participants completed direction estimation and map-building tasks that assessed the accuracy of their cognitive map of the virtual environment. We discuss and contrast developmental trends in accuracy on different spatial measures in the two studies. We suggest that mental representations created as a result of large-scale navigation are still developing during pre-adolescence and adolescence, and spatial perspective taking appears to play a key role in accuracy.

(2) Cognitive Factors: Spatial thinking is central to many scientific domains like GIScience, which involves understanding multi-level spatial relations. GIScience, itself can act as a tool for improving spatial thinking. In the third presentation, we focus on the cognitive and neural consequences of using Geographic Information Systems (GIS), which are computer-based mapping systems that allow users to simultaneously represent different layers of spatial information.  For example, a city planner could simultaneously represent land parcels, housing density, housing cost, and the location of parks when planning a new sub-division.  We hypothesize that thinking about complex spatial relations in this way can facilitate both spatial thinking and problem-solving skills.  Therefore, we are investigating the impact of enrollment in a high school course that emphasizes GIS (i.e. the GeoSpatial semester, or GSS).  Pre- and post-test assessments of spatial tests and problem solving indicate substantial improvement in spatial thinking. We are currently completing MRI data collection to identify structural and functional plasticity that mediates these improvements.


Nora Newcombe, Temple University

Alina Nazareth, Temple University

Jennifer Sutton, The University of Western Ontario


David Uttal, Northwestern University

Title: Probing the relationship between number sense and math achievement: insights from training studies

Summary: The recent explosion of research into number sense - the ability to rapidly apprehend and compare quantities - has been driven by the observation that performance on number sense tasks predicts math achievement scores. At the brain level, both numerical and mathematical processing activate the intraparietal sulcus, suggesting a common neural pathway underpins this relationship. Moreover, these results raise the tantalizing possibility that training number sense skills could improve math performance. This symposium reports on emerging research aimed at testing this proposal and understanding the mechanisms underlying the relationship between number sense and math achievement. It also connects directly to educational practice by exploring the effects of distinct number sense programs on the acquisition of mathematical knowledge. The first presentation, building on successful training programs in adults, will examine the effects of training approximate addition and subtraction on symbolic math skills in preschool-aged children. The second presentation examines the effectiveness of a preschool suite of games exercising non-symbolic, numerical and spatial reasoning in fostering poor children's readiness for learning primary school mathematics. The final presentation will examine the behavioral and neural effects of a number sense training aimed at mapping number symbols to their non-symbolic quantities.

                                 Discussant: Jennifer Venalainen, M.A. Charles G Fraser P.S., Toronto District School Board 


Joonkoo Park, Ph.D. Psychological and Brain Sciences, University of Massachusetts - Amherst

Moira Dillon, Department of Psychology, Harvard University

Miriam Rosenberg-Lee, Ph.D. Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University School of Medicine

Title: Fadeout and persistence of the effects of early childhood educational interventions: Problems and possible solutions

Summary: Interventions targeted at children’s early cognitive or academic skills, even when initially successful, often show quickly disappearing impacts. We will discuss the conditions under which fadeout and persistence have been observed (Duncan and Protzko) and evaluate the evidence for plausible hypotheses of why fadeout occurs (Protzko and Bailey). Each speaker will discuss the sets of conditions – including the malleability and fundamentality of targeted skills, capacities, or beliefs, and children’s developmental trajectories under counterfactual conditions – under which persistence may be most likely. Finally, to further the objectives of IMBES, we will focus on how more effective communication within and between researchers and practitioners in the fields of cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, and education will be necessary to make accurate predictions about which interventions will be most persistent (Clements and Bailey).


                                                                                                       Discussant: Douglas Clements, University of Denver


Drew Bailey, University of California, Irvine

Greg Duncan, University of California, Irvine

John Protzko, University of California, Santa Barbara

Title: The Bilingual Advantage: Evidence, Controversy, and Implications for Translational Practice.

Summary: There is abundant evidence that a lifetime of speaking two languages bestows cognitive advantage and may protect the brain from neurological decline associated with aging. Critics however charge basic claims are overblown and represent a biased interpretation of available data.  Translating insights from bilingualism research into educational practice therefore poses unique challenges. What are the benefits of a bilingual education? Are they primarily cultural, or are there additional long-term cognitive and neurological benefits linked to the mastery of multiple languages? Does a bilingual curriculum promote the development of higher-order cognitive abilities, or does it tend to select for intellectually stronger students? This symposium brings together a panel of distinguished scholars with widely varying views on these questions. The goal is an open discussion of the basic science and its implications for translational practice.


Discussant: Dr. Raymond Klein, Professor, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Dalhousie University


Dr. J. Bruce Morton

Brain and Mind Institute Western University

Dr. Kenneth Paap 

San Francisco State University

Dr. Gigi Luk

Harvard School of Education


Debra Titone

McGill University

Title:  Bilingualism, bilingual education, and neural organization for learning to read.

Summary: Bilingualism is a common life experience, yet little is known about the impact of bilingualism on children’s neural architecture for learning to read. This symposium offers four studies/presentations aiming to disambiguate the nature of bilingual acquisition by investigating the impact of home language environment, age of acquisition, and learner variability on children’s emergent literacy and the neural networks supporting dual language mastery. This is done through systematic investigations of bilingual and monolingual children attending either bilingual or monolingual educational settings, observed through multiple behavioral as well as neuroimaging (fMRI, DTI and EEG) methodologies. The first study used fMRI imaging with 5-year-old children attending Chinese-English and Spanish-English schools. During phonological awareness tasks, children with better combined dual language proficiency showed greater activation in left hemisphere regions typically associated with language and literacy, as compared to children with lower combined dual language proficiency. Study two investigated low-income Spanish-English preschoolers, finding that Spanish exposure and use at home had a significant impact on children’s emergent literacy skills. Taken together, these fMRI (study 1) and behavioral literacy findings (study 2) emphasize the importance of dual language experiences for learning to read. The third study uses multimodal neuroimaging methods (fMRI, DTI, EEG) to understand individual differences in bilingual acquisition of English, French and Chinese. Finally, the fourth study expands from bilingualism to multilingualism. This study’s longitudinal findings suggest that multilingual children achieve similar reading proficiency to children learning only two languages. The findings are discussed in terms of bilingual language transfer theories and how learning to read in two new languages offers reciprocal support towards the emergence of robust literacy networks. The symposium will therefore offer new evidence to inform theories of reading acquisition as well as educational practice for bilingual learners of different languages.

                                           Discussant: Iouila Kovelman, University of Michigan, Department of Psychology


Lisa Lopez, University of South Florida

Marc Joanisse,  University of Western Ontario

Xi Chen,  University of Toronto

Title: MBE perspectives on the learning of fractions and their magnitude

Summary: Fractions and rational numbers constitute an important milestone in the middle school mathematics curriculum, as they often represent students’ first experience with a number system beyond the natural numbers. Highlighting their relevance, recent research has linked achievement in learning fractions with future math achievement in advanced math topics such as algebra (Booth & Newton, 2012; Siegler et al., 2012). However, the transition from natural numbers to fractions and rationals poses great difficulty for many students. A problem often observed in research and practice is the lack of understanding that fractions have an associated magnitude that depends not on the absolute magnitudes of their components (numerator and denominator), but on their relative magnitudes. This leads students to make common mistakes, such as claiming that 18/27 < 18/30 because 27 < 30 (Pearn & Stephens, 2004), that 7/8 + 12/13 is approximately 19 or 21 (Carpenter, 1981), or that 5/6 = 7/8 “because each has one left” (Clarke & Roche, 2009). These examples demonstrate that many students lack basic intuitions about fraction magnitude, an issue important for MBE research. Some researchers (e.g. Gallistel & Gelman, 1992; Gelman, 2015) have argued that, in opposition to natural numbers and the approximate number system located in parietal cortex in humans, fractions have no mental/brain systems available to support their learning, but recent MBE research has proved this belief wrong (for a review, see Lewis, Matthews, & Hubbard, 2016). From the perspective of practice, it is also essential to comprehend how different representations and contexts for fractions affect students’ thinking. In particular, number lines seem to provide an optimal context to highlight fraction magnitude, and current MBE research is also exploring the effect of using them to this aim.

In this symposium, three researchers will present recent findings and perspectives about the learning of fractions from different standpoints in the MBE continuum. The first presentation will focus on the Ratio Processing System, a recently discovered neural system that might provide an intuitive basis for understanding ratio magnitudes and provide a scaffold for the learning of fractions. The second presentation will show what a brief fraction comparison questionnaire can reveal about students’ strategies, as well as how these strategies are modulated by the use of a number line task adapted to indirectly test fraction comparison. Finally, the third presentation will discuss data from an intervention study examining how playing a fraction game based on circular vs. number line representations of fractions may affect students’ understanding of fraction magnitude.


David M. Gómez, University of Chile                                            

Edward Hubbard, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Lisa Fazio, Vanderbilt University

Title: Integrating Mind, Brain and Education through Teacher-Researcher Collaboration

Summary: In this symposium, teachers, researchers, and school-board numeracy consultants present a teacher Professional Development (PD) model that offers a promising approach to bridging the gap between research and practice. In the first of three presentations, we describe the Math for Young Children (M4YC) project; an initiative taking place throughout the province of Ontario that aims to better understand and improve early years (K – Gr.3) mathematics learning and instruction. Central to this initiative is collaboration amongst math educators, researchers, teachers, principals, and school-board numeracy consultants. Key features of the PD model are discussed, with an emphasis on the importance of embedding research within and as part of everyday classroom practice. In the second presentation, we share the effects of PD implementation on children’s learning. In comparison to active control classrooms, children in the experimental classrooms have demonstrated significant pre-post gains in spatial reasoning, geometry, and basic number skills and numeration. The role of psychological science in the design of the intervention is discussed, namely, the decision to focus on developing children’s spatial reasoning skills as an integral part early mathematics instruction. Finally, in the third presentation, teachers and a numeracy coach share their experiences implementing the PD model in their own classrooms and schools. We will also hear about their experiences working with researchers and applying research findings to practice. The symposium will end with a discussion on both the strengths and shortcomings of the PD model in its capacity to fulfill the central goals of Mind, Brain, and Education.

Presentation overviews:

Presentation 1: Math for Young Children: Introducing a Classroom-based Professional Development Model that Integrates Research and Practice


Dr. Cathy Bruce, Dean of Education, Trent University

Tara Flynn, Project Manager/Research Officer, Trent University

Petra Le Duc, Student Achievement Officer, Ontario Ministry of Education

Presentation 2: Enhancing Young Children’s Spatial and Numerical Skills Through a Research-based Professional Development Model

Dr. Joan Moss, Professor Emeritus, OISE/University of Toronto

Dr. Beverly Caswell, Director of Robertson Program for Inquiry-based Teaching in Math and Science, Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study, OISE/University of Toronto

Zack Hawes, PhD Candidate, Department of Psychology, Brain and Mind Institute, University of Western Ontario

Presentation 3: Stories from the Field: Educators’ Perspectives on Implementing the PD Model in Their Own Classrooms and Schools

Discussant: Zack Hawes, PhD Candidate, Department of Psychology, Mind and Brain Institute, University of Western Ontario 

Sharla MacKinnon, Elementary Numeracy Facilitator, Rainy River District School Board

Michelle Cain, Kindergarten Teacher, Rainy River District School Board

Nicole Thomson, Kindergarten Teacher, Rainy River District School Board

Title: Growing up in a digital world: The good, the bad and the ugly

Summary: Children are in the midst of a vast, unplanned experiment, surrounded by digital technologies.  Though the smart phone was introduced in 2007 and tablets appeared only 6 years ago, a recent survey reported that three-fourths of children under the age of 4 years had their own mobile device (Kabali et al., 2015)! At the apex of this boom is the introduction of applications (“apps”) for tablets and smartphones, as well as toys like talking shape sorters that “come alive” through an implanted digital chip.  Indeed, “educational apps” -- which as of December 2015 stand at 1.5 million apps in the App Store -- are largely unregulated and untested.  And play with digital toys is only now being investigated.  As one magazine boasted, “Gone are the days when a spinning top or wind-up car were the pinnacle of toy technology. Nowadays kids expect their toys to connect to the internet, paired with smart devices…” (

This symposium surveys the digital landscape and asks about the consequences of growing up in a digital world.  Building on decades of work from the Science of Learning, the symposium features top scientists in medicine, psychology, communication, and media speaking on 4 topics: 1) A Primer on Mediatrics: What the science can tell us about the effects of digital media on health and development (Michael Rich, Harvard University); 2) Can we put real “education” into educational apps? (Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Temple University & Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, University of Delaware); 3) Parents’ interaction with children around talking versus traditional toys (Anna Sosa, Northern Arizona University; Jenn Zosh, Pennsylvania State University Brandywine); and, 4) Tap, Click, Read – Optimizing education through digital learning (Michael Levine, Joan Ganz Cooney Center).  After short presentations, the group will invite open discussion on these hot button items.  



 Anna Sosa, Northern Arizona University

Jenn Zosh, Pennsylvania State University Brandywine

Michael Levine, Joan Ganz Cooney Center



Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Ph.D.Temple University and The Brookings Institution



Roberta Michnick Golinkoff, The University of Delaware

Michael Rich, Harvard University 

Title: Science and mathematics education: Possible educational implications supported by recent neuroeducational studies

Summary: Many students encounter difficulties in solving a wide range of problems in science and mathematics. Research on students’ conceptions and reasoning in science and mathematics indicates that some of these difficulties may stem from intuitive interference. Overcoming this intuitive interference is therefore a key pedagogical challenge. In this symposium we will describe several lines of cognitive neuroeducational studies carried out in order to deepen understanding of these difficulties and their underlying reasoning mechanisms. We will also discuss possible educational implications that are supported by recent neuroeducational studies.

Students express a variety of intuitive scientific conceptions that are often resistant to instruction. Such conceptions can prevail and distract learners from producing accurate answers. Indeed, scientific performance appears to be delayed when the problem contains interfering irrelevant salient variables. Recent neuroimaging studies have shown that overcoming the interference is associated with neural activations related to the function of inhibition. These results suggest that initial conceptions persist through the development of expertise and can coexist and interfere with scientific conceptions. Teaching models that are consistent with the idea of coexistence will be discussed.

As for scientific concepts, irrelevant salient variables intuitively interfere with students' reasoning. In the symposium we will describe two examples of such interference, one in geometry and another in proportional reasoning.

In geometry, a brain-imaging study indicated that overcoming this interference is associated with activation in prefrontal brain regions known for their executive inhibitory control. This study suggested that intervention aimed at activating inhibitory control mechanisms could improve students’ success. This study also suggested that increasing the level of salience of the relevant variable would increase participants’ performance. Indeed two types of interventions, (1) activating inhibitory control mechanisms and (2) increasing the salience of the perimeter, significantly improved students’ performance.

In proportional reasoning the role of congruity and salience was studied. It was found that accuracy was lower and RT was longer in conditions in which there was an intuitive interference (no correspondence between congruity and salience). Brain-imaging showed lower activation in fronto-parietal numerical processing regions for these conditions. These findings suggested that the automatic processing of natural numbers that compose the ratios suppress the comparison of ratios as a function of congruity and salience. Reducing this interference when solving ratio problems in school could be achieved by directing students to calculate "rate per unit". A preliminary study suggests that this is a promising approach.


                          Layne Kalbfleisch, George Washington University, Principal Investigator of the Group Brain Dynamics in Learning Network


Reuven Babai, Tel Aviv University

Patrice Potvin, Université du Québec à Montréal

Ruth Stavy, Tel Aviv University

Title: Neuroscience and Development of Executive Function

Summary: Extant research suggests that children’s executive functions (EF), such as working memory, response inhibition, and attentional control, predict academic success throughout the course of schooling. However, much remains unknown regarding the neural mechanisms underlying EF development. While the use of neuroscience techniques to study the development and improvement of executive function is a fairly recent phenomenon, there is a growing body of research in the field that has significant implications for educators and scientists alike. This symposium will focus on new work that draws on a variety of neuroscience methods, including EEG, fMRI, fNIRS, and non-invasive brain stimulation to study EF, in the service of two primary questions. First, how do these findings improve our understanding of the link between executive function and academic achievement, and the underlying neural mechanisms supporting this connection? Second, how might thi s work be used to improve educational pedagogy and learning outcomes, either indirectly or directly? These questions will frame the work presented during the symposium, which will include ERP research of schooling effects on EF (Grammer), imaging work that explores the connection between kindergarten EF and later literacy acquisition (Hoeft & Haft), an fNIRS study investigating the connection between bilingualism and EF in children (Arredondo), and transcranial direct-current stimulation to improve learning of EF-intensive tasks (Katz).

                                                                                       Symposium Chair: Frederick Morrison, University of Michigan



Jennie Grammer, University of California 

Stephanie Haft,  University of California San Francisco

Maria Arredondo, University of Michigan

Benjamin Katz, University of Michigan

Title: The interdependence of brain and cognitive development in social context, and implications for education

Summary: Unlike the predominant conceptions from a few decades back, brain development is currently understood to be an active, dynamic process involving complex interactions between a person’s biological and genetic predispositions, cognitive opportunities and social environment. This symposium explores three examples of research at the nexus of brain, cognitive, and social development. (1) Amy Finn will discuss how core memory-related systems change across development, and the implications for learning certain aspects of language. In particular, she will characterize the functional development of working memory systems in the brain, and discuss research on how age is associated with qualitative differences in the neural structures recruited. She will end by discussing how social context might influence language development by shifting how working memory systems are recruited during language learning. (2) Ping Mamiya will discuss how individuals’ brain and genetic features interactively influence second language learning through dopamine/serotonin-mediated modulation of prefrontal executive functions. Specifically, her talk will explore how an individual's brain structural properties are related to the amount of second language immersion he/she receives, and how this relationship varies by genetic variations. (3) Mary Helen Immordino-Yang will discuss her research on how social and cultural experience shape the neural processing of social-emotional feelings in adolescents, and how these socialized neural processing patterns relate to real-world social cognition. She will share findings from her cross-cultural studies of admiration and compassion in Beijing and Los Angeles, and from ongoing cross-cultural, longitudinal studies of low-SES American adolescents from immigrant families living in neighborhoods with high levels of community violence. The symposium will conclude with a panel discussion facilitated by Gigi Luk on the implications of social context for neural development and learning, and recommendations for educational practice.

                                                                               Chair: Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, Ed.D., University of Southern California

  Facilitator: Gigi Luk, Ph.D., Harvard University Graduate School of Education


Amy Finn, Ph.D., University of Toronto

Ping C. Mamiya, Ph.D., University of Washington

Title: Reconciling domain-specific and domain-general influences on numerical cognition: Implications for education

Summary: Math competence is of critical importance for individual success in modern society, yet a significant proportion of economically active adults fail to acquire the necessary math skills to enable that success. Accordingly, ever increasing research attention is being paid to understanding how humans learn math so that we can develop more effective teaching methods. The cognitive foundations of emerging mathematical abilities are under intense debate: most existing work focuses either on domain-specific cognitive skills, such as non-symbolic “number sense”, or on domain-general attentional and executive skills, often pitting them against each other. This symposium brings together researchers using a range of approaches to investigate the roles of domain-general and domain-specific cognitive skills, as well as their neural substrates, in mathematics learning and assessment. We argue that an overarching framework encompassing these multiple skills and their interactions over time is necessary. Importantly, discussion will focus on interdisciplinary and cross-cultural perspectives as the speakers work with schools in Canada, the US and the UK and span developmental psychology, cognitive neuroscience, and education. 

Scerif will discuss an ongoing project exploring preschool mathematical development. The aim is to develop a more comprehensive model of the cognitive and educational foundations of numerical skills, by: a) investigating the interplay of both domain-general (attention, executive functions) and domain-specific (number sense, symbolic understanding) foundations for math longitudinally; b) establishing a partnership between cognitive scientists, education experts, and practitioners. Lefevre will talk about the role of subitizing, the core system of processing small exact numerosities, in numerical learning. She will explore whether subitizing is domain-specific, domain-general, or both, and highlight implications for education. Matejko will present a study investigating the neural substrates underlying arithmetic, visuo-spatial working memory (VSWM) and number processing. Much behavioral evidence has demonstrated a strong relationship between these abilities, therefore they may have common underlying neural substrates. Matejko will discuss an fMRI study that investigates how the arithmetic network overlaps with those for VSWM and basic number processing and how these shared networks change over development.  Price will discuss results from two recent studies investigating the relationship between brain structure and performance on a standardized math measure (Woodcock-Johnson) and performance on the Tennessee Comprehensive Achievement Program (TCAP) math subtest, respectively. Results suggest that while performance on standardized math measures is associated with grey matter density in the left parietal lobe (a region related to processing numerical magnitude), TCAP math performance is associated with higher density in the bilateral hippocampal formation and the right inferior frontal gyrus, regions associated with learning and memory. Thus, considering the role of development and environment in the relation between neuroscience and education is of critical importance. Together, these presentations address key questions about the role of fundamental cognitive processes and their neural substrates in mathematics learning and performance. Successes and challenges in bridging research and practice will be discussed.


Gaia Scerif, University of Oxford 

Jo-Anne Lefevre, Carleton University 

Anna Matejko, University of Western Ontario 

Gavin Price, Vanderbilt University 

Title: Factors supporting children's early, informal science learning

Summary: Teaching children scientific concepts in the early years is recognized as a worthwhile endeavour by most researchers and educators. Recently, a large-scale, longitudinal study found that children’s science knowledge at kindergarten entry was a strong predictor of the later science achievement gap observed in eighth grade (Morgan, Farkas, Hillemeier, & Maczuga, 2016). These results underscore the importance of early science-promoting experiences to increase interest and knowledge, especially in at-risk groups. 

In the current symposium, developmental and educational psychologists will describe experimental work on early, informal science-promoting experiences. This field is, by nature, interdisciplinary, but could benefit from even more collaboration between psychologists, educators, sociologists, policy-makers, museum curators, and media industry. Following the presentations, Christine Boggert, Vice Principal at the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study Laboratory School, will act as a discussant, considering the work from the perspective of an educator.

In the first talk, Venkadasalam, Nyhout, & Ganea present a recent set of studies investigating the features of picture books that best promote early science learning. Examining four- and five-year-olds’ learning of various physical science concepts (gravity, buoyancy, and motion) from different picture book genres (informational, realistic fiction, and fantasy books), they demonstrate that children show significant learning of the target concepts from picture books, and books that are more realistic are best at promoting learning. 

In the second talk, Strouse & Ganea describe their work investigating whether electronic touchscreen books may mimic the beneficial effects of adult questioning during reading. Children were read an electronic book about camouflage in 3 conditions, which varied how prompts were provided: 1) read by the book, 2) read by a researcher, or 3) extra-textual prompts provided by the researcher. Overall, all conditions supported children's learning about camouflage. However, low vocabulary children scored poorly when the book read itself, and low executive function children scored poorly when prompts were not written into the text. Reasons for these interactions, such as the added social cue supports provided by adults and the need for task-switching between reading and conversation will be discussed.

In the third talk, Marcus, Uttal, & Haden address how parent-child conversations during hands-on activities in museum exhibits can foster children’s understanding of science and engineering. They have observed more than 125 families with 4-8 year old children in a building construction exhibit within the Chicago Children’s Museum. Providing families with brief instructions about a key engineering concept prior to building in the exhibit leads to hands-on activities that reflect engineering and science practice, and to increased parent talk about STEM. 

In the final talk, Vlach and Noll offer a caveat. Their experiments examined whether and how adults change their explanations when talking to children vs. adults about science. The results demonstrate that adults are not particularly adept at modifying explanations and often include information that could deter children's science learning (e.g., magical information). These findings suggest that children’s early linguistic environment is not reaching its potential to support science learning.


                                                                                                                                                                 Chriss Boggert, University of Toronto


Gabrielle Strouse, University of South Dakota 

Maria Marcus, Loyola Unversity Chicago 

Haley Vlach, University of Wisconsin-Madison 

Vaunam Vendakasalam, University of Toronto

Title: Revealing the Invisible: Multimodal Analysis of Implicit Game-Based Learning

Summary: This panel brings together the work of learning game designers, cognitive psychologists, and learning data analysts to discuss how game-based learning paired with multi-modal data can provide new insights into learning.

Our panel, facilitated by Paul Darvasi, a master teacher at Royal St. George's College will facilitate the discussion among the panelists and the audience about research questions that lie at the interface of cognitive and neuroscience, Game-Based Learning analytics; multimodal data collection. The discussion and questions will be guided by the theme of revealing learning that may be invisible (e.g. implicit learning that is demonstrated through behaviors) through traditional educational assessments. Jan L. Plass (NYU) and Bruce D. Homer (CUNY GC) of the CREATE lab will discuss their research designing and using brain training games that target different sub-skills of executive functions (a set of cognitive processes involved in the control of behavior) such as updating, shifting, and inhibition. The studies include effectiveness research (to what extent are the games able to train the targeted cognitive skill?) as well as identification of game features that increase the impact of the games. They will report on results from studies with high school and college students and with neuro-atypical populations. They will also discuss findings from other studies related to the adaptivity of the in-game algorithm and other design features and executive function subskills. Ibrahim Dahlstrom-Hakki from Landmark College will discuss how they are working with EdGE, MIT, and FunAtomic to build a multimodal lab and data architecture that integrates eye-tracking models of player attention, physiological measures of engagement and arousal, and neurological indicators of working memory along with learning analytics that identify patterns of game play activities that are associated with STEM learning. This system is designed to be used “in the wild” and to synchronize the data streams to within milliseconds for use in action-oriented video games. This tight synchronization is required to correlate fixations and saccades from eye-tracking data with clicks from an action game. In Summer 2016 we will begin integration of a research-grade EEG into the system. Jodi Asbell-Clarke will discuss how EdGE at TERC is designing games that use sticky game mechanics within STEM relevant environments to support and measure implicit learning in games. Data mining detectors used on the data logs from Impulse are able to show that students who demonstrate game behaviors consistent with an implicit understanding of Newton’s laws of motion (e.g. consistently push more massive object with more force) and show that they also perform better on the related pre/post tests. Learning analytics using the data from a laser puzzle game (Quantum Spectre) were able to distinguish errors consistent with science misunderstandings from errors consistent with puzzle mechanics misunderstandings. Students who exhibited more science misunderstandings also showed less gains on the related pre/post assessments. These types of analyses of game-based learning behaviors that are consistent with implicit science knowledge (or misunderstandings) provide the bas is of multimodal research with Landmark College.

                                                                                                Discussant: Paul Darvasi, Royal St. George's College 


Jodi Asbell-Clarke, TERC

Ibrahim Dahlstron-Hakki, Landmark College

Jan Plass, NYU

Bruce Homer, NYU

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