Richard Prather is an Associate Professor of Human Development at the University of Maryland. His work addresses children’s cognitive development, with a focus on mathematical cognition. Richard holds an SB in Brain & Cognitive Sciences from MIT, and a PhD in Psychology from the University of Wisconsin.
One goal of my research is to improve children’s mathematics performance,
especially for children with poor math performance in classroom settings. The theoretical approach
that underlies my research is a complex-systems view of human cognition and the context in which
learning, and development occur. While cognitive processes can be examined in relative isolation,
they also occur within the broader school and home contexts influenced by internal factors, such as math anxiety, motivation, socio-emotional skills, and environmental factors, such as air quality.
The current phase of my research program includes the development and implementation of
a framework for characterizing human cognition. My prior work focused on the cognitive
mechanisms underlying individual differences in numerical cognition. I tended to focus on internal
neural and cognitive mechanisms. My current and future work expands that to multiple levels of
analysis of context, inspired by sociology, public health, mathematics education and other
disciplines. Context includes developmental, cultural, and societal experiences that may affect
human behavior. My contention is that cognition can not be fully understood by treating learners
as if they operate in a vacuum. Research studies must integrate internal cognitive mechanisms with
contextual factors, as all humans are embedded in developmental, cultural, and societal contexts
(see selected papers below). The difficult question is how to do this and still produce experimental
studies that can build on each other over time to facilitate scientific progress.
Some of my Writing
Some Recommended Readings