Creating Impact Science Program (CRISP) Fellow, Jacobs Foundation Research Fellow

Daniel Ansari

The University of Western Ontario

Research Focus
The focus of Daniel Ansari’s research is on how children learn and develop. In particular, his team and him conduct research to better understand how children become numerate and learn mathematics. To better understand how children develop numerical and mathematical skills, they study children’s behaviors as well as how their brains become specialized for numerical processing over the course of learning and development. We are also interested in why some children fail to acquire basic mathematical skills and why some people are afraid of math. His aim is to conduct research that can inform education.

My plans for the fellowship period
Having the great fortune of receiving a Jacobs Foundation Research Fellowships allowed me to accelerate my research program, forge new collaborative relationships and train the next generation of scientists. More specifically, during the fellowship I was able to continue longitudinal research studies on how children’s numerical abilities develop. By doing so, we discovered that children’s understanding of numerical symbols (e.g., the numeral ‘3’) is a critical building block. Children who have a fluent understanding of the meaning of numerical symbols (e.g., that ‘3’ refers to all sets of three objects) have greater success in their development of numerical and mathematical skills.

During my fellowships, I was also able to forge new collaborations with other Jacobs Foundation Fellows. These collaborations have allowed my team and I to broaden our research program. Through a collaboration with Dr. Sharon Wolf, for example, we have begun to study the foundations of numerical skills in children who grow up in West Africa.

Being a Jacobs Foundation Fellow also allowed me to develop my science communication skills through writing posts for the BOLD Blog and working with the foundation on a short video that summarizes research on how young children learn about numbers.

How will my work change children’s and youth’s lives?
My plans for the future are both to continue my research program on the development of children’s numerical skills and to broaden my focus beyond the development of numerical skills. I hope to do more work on the role of technology in learning and education through my participation in the JF funded CERES initiative. In addition, I have begun researching the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on student learning through a systematic review and a survey of teachers in the US and Canada. I hope to continue my research on this topic. Furthermore, I hope to engage in more knowledge translation efforts and hope to write a book on ‘Developmental Dyscalculia’ for a broad audience. Finally, I hope to build more meaningful connections with educators and co-design experiments to address issues/questions that are relevant to education.