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Indiana University Bloomington

Emily Fyfe

Dr. Emily Fyfe

Assistant Professor


efyfe [at]

office: PY 351

lab: Learning Education and Development Lab


Cognitive development; math cognition; learning and transfer; problem solving

Educational Background

  • 2015 – Ph.D. in Psychological Sciences, Vanderbilt University
  • 2010 – B.A. in Psychology, University of Notre Dame

Areas of Interest

  • Developmental Science
  • Cognitive Science
  • Mathematics Education

Research Topics

  • Cognitive Development
  • Math Cognition
  • Learning and Transfer
  • Problem Solving

Research Summary:

Children’s knowledge is continuously changing as they observe and interact with people and the world. To that end, my research focuses on the construction and organization of knowledge, with an emphasis on how children think, learn, and solve problems in mathematics. Children exhibit surprisingly intricate knowledge of key math ideas and can generate informal strategies to solve complex problems. Nevertheless, proficiency with mathematics in formal settings is often difficult to achieve. My research is motivated by a question facing cognitive scientists, developmental psychologists, and education practitioners alike: How can we support children’s learning so that it leads to the construction of robust and meaningful knowledge?

Thus, my research is in cognitive development with a focus on the development of mathematics knowledge and problem solving. My primary goal is to understand how children think and learn about math, both independently and with instructional guidance. My research not only helps identify basic cognitive processes that support the construction of knowledge, but also examines how to use that information to design effective instructional techniques.

Representative Publications

  • Fyfe, E. R., & Brown, S. A. (2017). Feedback influences children’s reasoning about math equivalence: A meta-analytic review. Thinking and Reasoning. doi:10.1080/13546783.2017.1359208
  • Fyfe, E. R., Matthews, P. G., Amsel, E., McEldoon, K. L., & McNeil, N. M. (2017). Assessing formal knowledge of math equivalence among algebra and pre-algebra students. Journal of Educational Psychology. doi:10.1037/edu0000208

  • Fyfe, E. R., Evans, J. L, Matz, L., & Hunt, K. Alibali, M. W. (2017). Relations between patterning skill and differing aspects of early mathematics knowledge. Cognitive Development, 44, 1-11. doi:10.1016/j.cogdev.2017.07.003
  • Fyfe, E. R., & Rittle-Johnson, B. (2017). Mathematics problem solving without feedback: A desirable difficulty in a classroom setting. Instructional Science, 45, 177-194. doi:10.1007/s11251-016-9401-1

  • Rittle-Johnson, B., Fyfe, E. R., Hofer, K. G., & Farran, D. C. (2017). Early math trajectories: Low-income children’s mathematics knowledge from age 4 to 11. Child Development, 88, 1727-1742. doi:10.1111/cdev.12662
  • Fyfe, E. R. (2016). Providing feedback on computer-based algebra homework in middle-school classrooms. Computers in Human Behavior, 63, 568-574. doi:10.1016.j.chb.2016.05.082

  • Fyfe, E. R., & Rittle-Johnson, B. (2016). The benefits of computer-generated feedback for mathematics problem solving. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 147, 140-151. doi:10.1016/j.jecp.2016.03.009

  • Fyfe, E. R., & Rittle-Johnson, B. (2016). Feedback both helps and hinders learning: The causal role of prior knowledge. Journal of Educational Psychology, 108, 82-97. doi:10.1037/edu0000053

  • 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. doi:10.1111/cdev.12331

  • Fyfe, E. R., DeCaro, M. S., & Rittle-Johnson, B. (2015). When feedback is cognitively-demanding: The importance of working memory capacity. Instructional Science, 43(1), 73-91. doi:10.1007/s11251-014-9323-8

  • Fyfe, E. R., & McNeil, N. M, & Borjas, S. (2015). Benefits of “concreteness fading” for children’s mathematics understanding. Learning and Instruction, 35, 104-120. doi:10.1016/j.learninstruc.2014.10.004

  • Fyfe, E. R., DeCaro, M. S., & Rittle-Johnson, B. (2014). An alternative time for telling: When conceptual instruction prior to problem solving improves mathematical knowledge. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 84, 502-519. doi:10.1111/bjep.12035

  • 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(1), 9-25. doi:10.1007/s10648-014-9249-3

  • Fyfe, E. R., Rittle-Johnson, B., & DeCaro, M. S. (2012). The effects of feedback during exploratory mathematics problem solving: Prior knowledge matters. Journal of Educational Psychology, 104(4), 1094-1108. doi:10.1037/a0028389