ACE Associate Professor of Psychology

Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison



Prof. McNeil studies cognitive development, with a primary focus on how children think, learn, and solve problems in the domain of mathematics. This work encompasses several interrelated areas such as numerical representation, symbolic reasoning, concept construction, skill acquisition, and problem solving. She asks questions like “What do children understand about math before they start learning it in school?” “How does children’s understanding of math change as the result of different environments?” “How does existing knowledge affect learning of new information?” and “How do children construct new problem-solving strategies”? Her research is funded by grants from the Institute of Educational Sciences (IES) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). She is interested in theoretical issues related to the construction and organization of knowledge, as well as practical issues related to learning and instruction.

Representative Papers

Fuhs, M. W., & McNeil, N. M. (in press). ANS acuity and mathematics ability in preschoolers from low-income homes: Contributions of inhibitory control. Developmental Science.

Petersen, L. A., & McNeil, N. M. (in press). Using perceptually rich objects to help children represent number: Established knowledge counts. Child Development.

McNeil, N. M., Fyfe, E. R., Petersen, L. A., Dunwiddie, A. E., & Brletic-Shipley, H. (2011). Benefits of practicing 4 = 2 + 2: Nontraditional problem formats facilitate children's understanding of mathematical equivalence. Child Development, 82, 1620-1633.

McNeil, N. M., Weinberg, A., Stephens, A. C., Hattikudur, S., Asquith, P., Knuth, E. J., & Alibali, M. W. (2010).  A is for apple: Mnemonic symbols hinder students' interpretation of algebraic expressions. Journal of Educational Psychology, 102, 625-634.

McNeil, N. M. (2008). Limitations to teaching children 2 + 2 = 4: Typical arithmetic problems can hinder learning of mathematical equivalence. Child Development, 79, 1524-1537.

McNeil, N. M. (2007). U-shaped development in math: 7-year olds outperform 9-year olds on mathematical equivalence problems. Developmental Psychology, 43, 687-695.

McNeil, N. M., & Alibali, M. W. (2005b). Why won’t you change your mind? Knowledge of operational patterns hinders learning and performance on equations. Child Development, 76, 883-899.

McNeil, N. M., & Alibali, M. W. (2004). You’ll see what you mean: Students encode equations based on their knowledge of arithmetic. Cognitive Science, 28, 451-466.

View Curriculum Vitae (PDF)

Contact Information
Office: 102 Haggar Hall
Notre Dame, Indiana 46556
Phone: (574) 631-5678