Premature babies and mathematics

Action Medical Research has awarded a grant of almost £160,000 for research looking at why children who are born very prematurely go on to struggle with some areas of mathematics. The project will draw on the expertise of psychologists at the universities of Leicester, Loughborough and Nottingham, as well as a specialist in neonatology from University College London.

The study, led by Chartered Psychologist Dr Samantha Johnson from the University of Leicester, will compare children who were born more than eight weeks early (classified as 'very premature' babies) with children who were born at full term. It will look at which areas of maths and numeracy present the biggest challenges to children who were born very prematurely.

More than 10,000 babies are born very prematurely every year, and many go on to develop learning disabilities. Problems with maths are particularly common, but the problems seem to be specific and cannot be explained by lower IQ or general learning difficulties.

This new in-depth study aims to investigate the precise nature and causes of premature children's difficulties with maths. The results could mean better educational provision for premature children and help for teachers and families.