CE28 - Cognition, éducation, formation tout au long de la vie

Mathematical learning, stress and brain plasticity in school-age children from low-income families – StrApMat

Submission summary

An alarming proportion (~20%) of children are from households with low socio-economic status (SES) and there is growing evidence to suggest that relative to children from high-SES families, children from low-income families are more likely to perform worse on cognitive and academic achievement tests, they are subject to increased behavioral and emotional problems, and present higher stress levels. This puts them at risk for higher academic and vocational failures, creating a significant educational, societal and economic burden. Critically, the cognitive, behavioral, and neural mechanisms underlying learning in children from low-SES backgrounds remain poorly understood and are grossly understudied. A foundational domain of academically-relevant learning is mathematics, which is essential for educational and professional success, and quantitative reasoning in everyday life. Weak mathematical skills are associated with poorer health outcomes, use of health resources, criminality and, overall represent a substantial cost to nations. Critically, math difficulties are widespread in children from low-SES backgrounds, and identifying targets for remediation have taken on great significance. Characterizing the adverse effects of biological and behavioral factors, such as stress, which can alter brain plasticity mechanisms in children with low-SES carries the potential to improve their learning outcomes. To this end, the overarching goal of the proposed Research Project is to use an innovative, multimodal research design that combines cognitive testing and training with biological measures of stress, and state-of-the-art brain imaging tools to investigate the behavioral, neurophysiological, and neurocognitive mechanisms underlying math learning and brain plasticity in children from low-SES. The proposed work is highly relevant to the mission of the ANR 2018 Work Program Challenge on «the fight against academic failure, failure in higher education and lifelong learning». Collectively, this research will provide unprecedented insights into the behavioral, cognitive and neurobiological basis of learning in children from low-SES backgrounds as well as launch a novel and highly interdisciplinary program of research dedicated to improving academic outcomes in children at risk for learning disabilities. Findings from this study will have major implications not only for informing best practices for the remediation of poor learning in low-SES, but also for determining sources of variability in mathematical learning with broad consequences for optimizing learning in all children, especially those from understudied and vulnerable groups. Finally, this Research Project has the potential to address a formidable societal and economic need, as improving mathematical education, especially for traditionally disadvantage groups is widely recognized as pivotal to long-term economic growth and security.

Project coordinator

Madame Teresa Iuculano (Laboratoire de Psychologie du Développement et de l'Education de l'enfant (LaPsyDE))

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


UPDescartes - UMR 8240 Laboratoire de Psychologie du Développement et de l'Education de l'enfant (LaPsyDE)

Help of the ANR 209,693 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: January 2019 - 48 Months

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