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Maths skills improve with age and training, says study

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Older teenagers and young adults are able to improve their fundamental maths skills and reasoning abilities more rapidly than younger teens, according to a new research done at the University College London Institute of Cognitive Sciences. The study also says that older adolescents significantly improved their performance in maths skills after training.

“We have found that the cognitive skills, which are related to mathematics performance, show greater training effects in late adolescence than in early adolescence,” said Lisa Knoll, one of the authors of the research. Prof Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, senior author of the study, said that while older teens did better following training in non-verbal reasoning, the tests showed that younger teens aged 11-13 could also advance rapidly after being given brief online training sessions for three weeks.

These findings highlight the relevance of late developmental stage for education and challenge the assumption that earlier is always better for learning. We find that fundamental cognitive skills related to mathematics can be significantly trained in late adolescence.

The research, the first of its kind to compare the effects of training between age groups, gave tests in one of three formats to more than 600 children, teenagers and adults aged 11 to 33. After completing 20 days of training through brief online sessions, they were re-tested to measure improvement.

While one of the three formats – face recognition – showed no improvement after training, the other two tests, of non-verbal reasoning and number judgments, showed distinct differences between age groups, with those at the older end of the age scale developing more rapidly after training.


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