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.

Recent Publications (Pindicates postdoc author; Gindicates graduate student author;  Uindicates undergraduate student author)


uFyfe, E. R., McNeil, N. M., Son, J. Y., & Goldstone, R. L. (accepted pending final revisions). Concreteness fading in mathematics and science instruction: A systematic review. Educational Psychology Review.
pChesney, D. L., McNeil, N. M., P Matthews, P. G., GByrd, C. E., GPetersen, L. A., U Wheeler, M. C., UFyfe, E. R., & Dunwiddie, A. E. (accepted pending final revisions). Organization matters: Individual differences in children’s mental organization of addition knowledge correlate with understanding of math equivalence in symbolic form. Cognitive Development.
McNeil, N. M. (in press). A “change-resistance” account of children’s difficulties understanding mathematical equivalence. Child Development Perspectives.
pChesney, D. L., McNeil N. M., Brockmole, J.R., & Kelly K. (2013). An eye for relations: Eye-tracking idicates long-term negative effects on operational thinking on understanding of Math equilvalence. Memory & Cognition, 41, 1079-1095
GPetersen, L. A., & McNeil, N. M. (2013). Using perceptually rich objects to help children represent number: Established knowledge counts. Child Development, 84, 1020-1033.
GFuhs, M. W., & McNeil, N. M. (2013). ANS acuity and mathematics ability in preschoolers from low-income homes: Contributions of inhibitory control. Developmental Science, 16, 136-48.
McNeil, N. M., PChesney, D. L.,  PMatthews, P. G., UFyfe, E. R., GPetersen, L. A., & Dunwiddie, A. E.(2012). It pays to be organized: Organizing addition knowledge around equivalent values facilitates understanding of mathematical equivalence. Journal of Educational Psychology. 104, 1109-1121.
McNeil, N. M., & UFyfe, E. R. (2012). “Concreteness fading” promotes transfer of mathematical knowledge. Learning and Instruction, 22, 440-448.
McNeil, N. M., UFyfe, E. R., GPetersen, 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., GFuhs, M. W., GKeultjes, M. C., UGibson, M. H. (2011). Influences of problem format and SES on preschoolers’ understanding of approximate addition. Cognitive Development, 26, 57-71.

View Curriculum Vitae (PDF)

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