Research Projects

Please select from the links below or to the left to learn more about current and completed projects in the Math and Numeracy lab:

Ongoing Projects

Numbers in Context

The principal theme across our major research projects is numbers in context. We study numerical processing and the role context plays in concurrent attention to numerosity in children and adults, children’s  interpretation of number words, and obligatory arithmetic  processing. These basic science questions are a major focus of our work. 

Attention to Numerosity: This project seeks to determine what physical features may help direct children’s attention to numerical information, which may inform the design and implementation of educational materials.

Storybooks Project: Do counting books and other storybooks align with what we know about how children develop an understanding of number? Our research suggests this is not always the case, and that specific features of books may support or interfere with children’s learning to map numerosities onto number words.

Numerical Ambiguity: Number words usually refer to magnitude or ordinal properties of number, but not always. We study whether individual differences in children’s and adults’ sensitivity to numerical vs non-numerical contexts influence how and when an individual interprets number words.

Development and Research in Early Mathematics Education (DREME)

The DREME Network is a collaborative effort funded by the Heising-Simons Foundation. This work included an emphasis on applied research and the development of materials for early childhood educators, parents, and parent support professionals.  The DREME Network Project has ended. Current efforts are limited to dissemination.  Our lab was  involved in several DREME supported projects:

Making More of Mathematics

The Preschool Mathematics and Executive Function project is a DREME Network Collaboration funded by the Heising-Simons Foundation. This project was focused on enriching children’s exposure to early mathematics activities in PreK settings, and determining how and if high quality mathematics activities enhance the development of early math and EF skills. Through this project we contributed to developing materials for teachers that focus on strengthening children’s mathematical and executive function skills. For example, we wrote a set of articles that described the ways in which EF skills are related to doing and learning mathematics. For more information, see

Supporting Family Support Professionals as a Means to Promote Family Engagement in Early Mathematics  

A principal emphasis of the DREME Network was to develop resources to promote early mathematics. The UMN team developed a set of modules suitable for asynchronous online professional development for parent educators, home visitors, librarians, and other family support professionals (FSPs) who work with parents and caregivers of young children (0 to 5+ years). Through three modules, these materials were designed to introduce family support professionals to early mathematics, by addressing ways to (a) foster healthy dispositions towards mathematics, (b) recognize developmentally appropriate early mathematics interactions with young children, and (c) explore ways to integrate meaningful mathematical thinking in everyday interactions, including playful interactions. 

Through this project, we developed activities for family support professionals to use with caregivers, including materials to share with families. 

Completed Projects

The Math Skills Development Project (MSDP)

The MSDP is a completed, in-depth, 13 year longitudinal study of mathematical thinking from Kindergarten to Grade 12 (Funded primarily but not exclusively by the NIH). There are multiple opportunities for secondary analyses of existing data from this project. These data focus on cognitive correlates of early mathematics, select experimental measures of mathematical thinking, and early indicators of persistent mathematics learning difficulties.  The study was designed to explore math learning difficulties from the perspective of individual differences in cognitive and related skills. 

Neurogenetic Syndrome Phenotypes: Model Pathways to Mathematics Learning Disabilities

This was a primary component of the completed MSDP, and an extension of this work was focused on Turner syndrome in one component of the Numbers in Context research.


GopherMath was a collaborative endeavor initiated in Fall 2016 by faculty in the UMN STEM Center. It involved faculty in Educational Psychology (Dr Robin Codding and Keisha Varma), Curriculum and Instruction (Dr. Kathy Cramer and Erin Baldinger) Child Development (Michele Mazzocco), and Educational Psychology Graduate Student Stacey Brandjord.

The overarching goal of the study was to improve children’s rational number concept development through teacher professional development, parent engagement, and strengthening whole number skills and concepts. The contribution of the Mazzocco Math and Numeracy Lab to this study was to study the foundational role of whole number concepts in rational number learning.

This research was a partnership with the Minneapolis Public Schools, and is supported by General Next and the University of Minnesota.

Parents and Caregivers’ Roles in Early Mathematical Thinking and Development

“Parents and Caregivers’ Roles in Early Mathematical Thinking and Development: The Role of Counting and Number Books in Early Number Concepts” is a collaborative, cross-institutional research project that was launched in 2015 at the Minnesota State Fair University of Minnesota Driven to Discover Research Pavilion.

This project involves several separate studies, including the Math and Numeracy Lab’s work on counting books, shared reading, parent-child interactions related to mathematical thinking, family child care setting learning environments, and developing parent-educator workshops.

This work is funded in part by the University of Minnesota and by the Heising-Simons Foundation.