Nicole McNeil

Professor and ACE College Professor

Director, Cognition Learning and Development (CLAD) Lab; Fellow, Institute for Educational Initiatives

Professor and ACE College Professor
E468 Corbett Family Hall
Notre Dame, IN 46556
+1 574-631-5678

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Cognition, Learning, and Development (CLAD) Lab

Primary Area: Cognition, Brain, and Behavior

Additional Areas: Developmental


Prof. McNeil studies cognitive development, with a primary focus on how children think, learn, communicate, and solve problems in the domain of mathematics. This work encompasses several interrelated areas such as numerical representation, symbolic reasoning, concept construction, skill acquisition, communication, 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 do the ways in which we communicate mathematical information affect children’s understanding of math?" “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.


Postdoc. Yale University
Ph.D. University of Wisconsin-Madison
B.S. Carnegie Mellon University

Representative Publications

McNeil, N. M., Hornburg, C. B., Brletic-Shipley, H., & Matthews, J. M. (in press) (2021). Improving children's understanding of mathematical equivalence via an intervention that goes beyond nontraditional arithmetic practice. Journal of Educational Psychology.

O’Rear, C. D. & McNeil, N. M. (in press) (2019). Improved set-size labeling mediates the effect of a counting intervention on children’s understanding of cardinality. Developmental Science.

McNeil, N. M., Hornburg, C. B., Devlin, B. L., Carrazza, C., & McKeever, M. O. (2019). Consequences of individual differences in children’s formal understanding of mathematical equivalence. Child Development, 90, 940-956.

Hornburg, C. B., Wang, L. & McNeil, N. M. (2018). Comparing meta-analysis and individual person data analysis using raw data on children’s understanding of equivalence. Child Development, 89, 1983-1995.

Fyfe, E. R., Matthews, P. G., Amsel, E., McEldoon, K. L., & McNeil, N. M. (2018). Assessing formal knowledge of math equivalence among algebra and pre-algebra students. Journal of Educational Psychology, 110, 87-101.

Kirkland, P.K. & McNeil, N. M. (2021). Question design affects students' sense-making on mathematics word problems. Cognitive Science, 45, e12960.

O’Rear, C. D., Seip, I. Azar, J., Baroody, A. J., & McNeil, N. M. (2023). Features in children’s counting books that lead dyads to both count and label sets during shared book reading. Child Development.