Children’s understanding of counterintuitive concepts in maths and science

Dr. Iroise Dumontheil shared fresh results from the CEN Unlocke project, a large-scale school intervention aiming at improving children’s understanding of maths and science. Teachers used a computer software that invited children to « Stop and Think » before answering counterintuitive problems (e.g. What do cows drink?). The intervention lasted for 10 weeks. Each week included 3 sessions of 12 minutes.

As explained in the following video, the outcomes of the intervention varied depending on children’s age (whether they were in Year 3 or in Year 5), and on the subject that was assessed (science or maths). The most promising results indicate an improvement in scientific understanding among Year 5 pupils.

The project was funded by the Education Endowment Foundation and the Wellcome Trust, and was independently assessed by the National Foundation for Educational Research. It was realised in partnership with Learnus.

You can visit the Unlocke website here, and read the full report here.

Identifying different types of cognitive ability in scientific thinking…

PhD student Selma Coecke shares with us a summary of her recent CEN seminar titled: An undefined form of fluid intelligence: how its trajectory differs from conceptual development in the context of science 


Intelligence tests measure two forms of cognitive process: verbal – representing declarative knowledge – and nonverbal -aiming to eliminate the influence of socio-cultural knowledge.
However, my research demonstrates that there are multiple cognitive processes in the context of scientific thinking.  Spatial-temporal cognition for example, is one of these and it consistently explains unique variance in science beyond verbal-nonverbal distinction.
Furthermore, although it is often considered part of the verbal domain, scientific vocabulary is another unique measure.  It lies at the interface between the verbal and nonverbal as it draws heavily on imagery. During this talk I explained how my data demonstrates that neither verbal nor nonverbal abilities are unitary. Spatial-temporal cognition in particular, may be a good candidate independent component of fluid intelligence.  This form of thinking appears to satisfy three major requirements: it has a (1) unique predictive/ecological validity, (2) capacity to support abstract thinking, (3) unique qualitative and quantitative characteristics.