Professor. Daniel Ansari

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Biography and Keynote Speaker Abstract

Daniel Ansari, PhD

Department of Psychology & Brain and Mind Institute

University of Western Ontario, London, Canada

Daniel Ansari received his PhD from University College London in 2003. Presently, Daniel Ansari is a Professor and Canada Research Chair in Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience in the Department of Psychology and the Brain & Mind Institute at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, where he heads the Numerical Cognition Laboratory (www.numericalcognition.org). Ansari and his team explore the developmental trajectory underlying both the typical and atypical development of numerical and mathematical skills, using both behavioral and neuroimaging methods. He has a keen interest in exploring connections between cognitive psychology, neuroscience and education and served as the  President of the International Mind, Brain and Education Society (IMBES) from 2014-16. Ansari has received early career awards from the Society of Research in Child Development, the American Psychological Association as well as the Government of Ontario. In 2014, Ansari was named as a member of the inaugural cohort of the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists of the Royal Society of Canada.

Professor Ansari has undertaken extensive research using brain imaging techniques to identify how children's brains process numbers, and how that brain activation changes with age. By doing that, he discovered how children's brains process numerical information differently than adults' brains, thus highlighting the importance of development. This discovery also explored the question of how these developmental processes go awry in children who have difficulties with maths.

Abstract

Building blocks of mathematical competence: evidence from brain & behaviour

It is well established that early math skills are a strong predictor of later mathematics achievement. Moreover, low numerical and mathematical skills in childhood have been shown to relate to low socio-economic outcomes in adulthood. Against this background it is critical to better understand the early predictors of numerical and mathematical skills and to use this information to inform early mathematics education.

In this talk I will provide an overview of what insights have been gained from recent research in Developmental Psychology and Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience on the building blocks of mathematical competence.  Specifically,. I will discuss research that has shown that basic number processing (such as comparing which of two numbers is larger) is related to individual differences in children’s arithmetic achievement. Furthermore, children with mathematical disabilities (Developmental Dyscalculia) have been found to perform poorly on basic number processing tasks. In this talk I will review evidence for an association between basic number processing and arithmetic achievement in children with and without mathematical difficulties. By doing so, I will also discuss whether individual differences in mathematical abilities are driven by innate differences in a ‘number sense’ that humans share with other species or whether such variability is related to the acquisition of uniquely human, symbolic representations of number (e.g. Arabic numerals).  I will draw on evidence from both brain and behavior and discuss the implications of this research for assessment, diagnosis and intervention.  Moreover, I will review research on Mathematics Anxiety and Gender Differences in numerical and mathematical development.

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