Nicole M. McNeil, Ph.D.


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.

Listen to Nicole's Episode of Think. Pair. Share.

Corbett Family Hall
  • 2016 Christ the Teacher Award, from the ACE Teaching Fellow program
  • 2013 Boyd McCandless Award, from American Psychological Association (APA)
  • 2007 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientist and Engineers (PECASE)
IEI Fellows
ND PIER Faculty Committee
  • Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • B.S., Carnegie Mellon University
  • McNeil, N. M., Hornburg, C. B., Brletic-Shipley, H., & Matthews, J. M. (in press). 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). 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.
  • Hornburg, C. B., Rieber, M., & McNeil, N. M. (2017). An integrative data analysis of gender differences in children’s understanding of mathematical equivalence. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 63, 140-150.
  • Fuhs, M. W., Hornburg, C. B., & McNeil, N. M. (2016). Specific number sense skills mediate the association between inhibitory control and mathematics achievement. Developmental Psychology, 52, 1217-1235.
  • Alcock, L., Ansari, D., Batchelor, S., Bisson, M., De Smedt, B., Gilmore, C., Gobel, S., Hannula-Sormunen, M., Hodgen, J., Inglis, M., Jones, I., Mazzocco, M., McNeil, N. M., Schneider, M., Simms, V., & Weber, K. (2016). Challenges in mathematical cognition: A collaboratively-derived research agenda. Journal of Numerical Cognition, 2, 20-41.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • McNeil, N. M. (2014). A “change-resistance” account of children’s difficulties understanding mathematical equivalence. Child Development Perspectives, 8, 42-47

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