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British Academy commissions Special Research Projects on maths anxiety and the cognitive benefits of learning languages

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The purpose of the commissions is not to undertake primary research but rather to provide an overview of existing research and its implications for policy and practice, identifying potential interventions and gaps in our knowledge.  This forms part of the British Academy’s initiative to deepen awareness and demonstrate the importance of languages and quantitative skills. 

A team of researchers from the University of Manchester, the University of Edinburgh and Loughborough University, headed by Dr Maria Pampaka, will lead the project on maths anxiety. They will conduct a systematic review of existing research, charting the issue throughout compulsory education and beyond, as well as considering the impact of parental and teacher’s anxiety around mathematics. Viewing this as a psychological and sociological phenomenon, the project will identify ‘what can work and why’ for educational practice and policy. 

Researchers from the Deafness, Cognition, and Language Research Centre at University College London, and the UCL Institute of Education, headed jointly by Professor Bencie Woll FBA and Professor Li Wei, will lead the project on the cognitive benefits of language learning. The project will examine the relationship between language learning and cognitive function across the lifespan including its effects on literacy, health, employment and community cohesion. Looking at both modern and community languages, it will make recommendations for new strategies in language education as well as increase public understanding of the advantages of learning languages.

Professor Roger Kain FBA, the Academy’s Vice President for Research and Higher Education, said:

“These projects reflect the Academy’s long-standing concerns regarding the deficits in languages and quantitative skills in UK education and research. Although there has been wide-ranging research on these two important topics, the impact of this research on education policy and pedagogy remains limited. Through these Special Research Projects, the British Academy will provide a comprehensive evidence base to inform policy and practice, and identify avenues for future research.”

The Academy expects to publish the findings from both projects in the second half of 2017.

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