Nicole McNeil

Nicole McNeil

Professor of Psychology; Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) College Professor; Director, Education, Schooling, & Society (ESS)

Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison

  • Cognition, Brain, and Behavior
  • Developmental

(574) 631-5678

Corbett Family Hall

Notre Dame, IN 46556

Cognition, Learning, and Development Lab

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Cognitive development, mathematical cognition and learning

Professor McNeil is open to mentoring graduate students in the fall


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 U.S. Department of Education's 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

McNeil, N. M., Hornburg, C. B., Devlin, B. L., Carrazza, C., & McKeever, M. O. (in press). Consequences of individual differences in children’s formal understanding of mathematical equivalence. Child Development.

Fyfe, E. R., McNeil, N. M., & Rittle-Johnson, B. (2015). Easy as ABCABC: Abstract language facilitates performance on a concrete patterning task. Child Development, 86, 927-935.

McNeil, N. M., Fyfe, E. R., & Dunwiddie, A. E. (2015). Arithmetic practice can be modified to promote understanding of math equivalence. Journal of Educational Psychology, 107, 423-436.

Petersen, L. A., & McNeil, N. M. (2013). Using perceptually rich objects to help children represent number: Established knowledge counts. Child Development, 84, 1020-1033.

Fyfe, E. R., McNeil, N. M., & Rittle-Johnson, B. (in press). Easy as ABCABC: Abstract language facilitates performance on a concrete patterning task. Child Development.

McNeil, N. M., Fyfe, E. R., & Dunwiddie, A. E. (in press). Arithmetic practice can be modified to promote understanding of math equivalence. Journal of Educational Psychology.

McNeil, N. M. (2014). A “change-resistance” account of children’s difficulties understanding mathematical equivalence. Child Development Perspectives, 8, 42-47.

Fyfe, E. R., McNeil, N. M., Son, J. Y., & Goldstone, R. L. (2014). Concreteness fading in mathematics and science instruction: A systematic review. Educational Psychology Review, 26, 9-25. 

Petersen, L. A., & McNeil, N. M. (2013). Using perceptually rich objects to help children represent number: Established knowledge counts. Child Development, 84, 1020-1033.

Fuhs, 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., Chesney, D. L., Matthews, P. G., Fyfe, E. R., Petersen, 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., 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., Fuhs, M. W., Keultjes, M. C., Gibson, M. H. (2011). Influences of problem format and SES on preschoolers’ understanding of approximate addition. Cognitive Development, 26, 57-71.

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.