Pioneering study looks at link between premature birth and learning difficulties

Researchers aiming to understand why children born very prematurely often struggle with maths

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A group of schoolchildren are taking part in a UK research project to try to understand why children born prematurely often have problems with maths.

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Over 10,000 babies are born very prematurely (more than eight weeks early) each year in the UK. Many go on to develop learning difficulties, in particular with mathematics.

“We’re carrying out this important study to help us understand what aspects of maths premature children find particularly difficult and what the underlying causes might be,” said project leader Dr Samantha Johnson, from the University of Leicester.

“We hope to use the knowledge we gain to find ways to improve the children’s skills in maths. This is likely to have knock-on effects in other subjects.” 

Children’s charity Action Medical Research has funded the project, which involves around 160 London and Leicester schoolchildren aged 8 to 10 years.

Half of the children were born more than eight weeks early, and the other half were born full-term. A psychologist, who has no knowledge of which children are which, will be assessing their learning and maths skills in school.

The project is being launched to coincide with the first ever World Prematurity Day, which takes place tomorrow.

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