X Close

Child Development and Learning Difficulties



Home Learning Environment of children with Williams syndrome

By Admin, on 21 May 2021

(Erica Ranzato, Andrew Tolmie, Jo Van Herwegen)

Photo source: Unsplash_Annie Spratt

Home Learning Environment (HLE) refers to all of the activities and opportunities provided by parents to support their child’s overall academic success. It includes the frequency of home learning experiences, the availability of resources that promote learning, children’s participation in the learning activities and parents’ attitudes towards learning. Cross-cultural research on typically developing populations suggests that the HLE during early years has a pivotal role for the development of children’s literacy skills (Senechal & LeFevre, 2014) and mathematical abilities (Mutaf-Yildiz et al., 2020).

We investigated for the first time the HLE of 24 primary school children with Williams syndrome (WS), using a parental web-based survey and our findings showed that:

  • Literacy-based activities occurred more frequently than maths-based activities.
  • Parents provided a varied HLE characterized by maths activities supporting different skills such as counting, digit recognition, arithmetic, and numeracy.
  • Parents engaged with their child in both formal and informal[1] literacy and maths-based activities, but informal activities occurred more often when supporting counting and number recognition skills.
  • Parents had high expectations for their child’s literacy and number knowledge skills at the end of primary school, but their expectations for their child’s arithmetic skills were significantly lower compared to the other categories.
  • Parents that had higher expectations for their child were, in general, offering more frequent learning activities at home.
  • When compared to a group of parents of primary school children with Down syndrome (DS), parents of children with WS provided maths-based activities that supported counting and number recognition less often than parents of children with DS. This might be explained by the fact that, although parents of children with WS recognised their child’s difficulties with mathematics, they may underestimate the difficulties that their child might have specifically with counting.

Although the HLE for children with WS was varied and parents had overall high expectations for their child’s academic abilities, it is recommended that parents provide short (5-10 minutes) but frequent activities that focus on maths as well as literacy development. If you would like further inspiration for informal mathematical activities, have a look at our Math@home work (https://www.ucl.ac.uk/ioe/departments-and-centres/departments/psychology-and-human-development/child-development-and-learning-difficulties-lab/educational-technologies-and-apps/mathshome).

We would like to thank all the parents who completed the web-based survey.



[1] Formal activities are the activities used by parents with the specific purpose of developing literacy or mathematical skills. Informal activities consist of real-world tasks during which parents’ teaching happens without an explicit purpose and the learning is likely to be incidental, such supporting maths learning through playing board games that involve numbers.

Educational Maths Apps with Young Children: 3 Things to Consider

By Admin, on 16 December 2020

By Laura Outhwaite

Educational maths apps are increasingly popular with children, parents, and teachers alike. But technology alone will not equal effective learning. In this blog, we talk through three important things to consider when using educational maths apps with young children.

Children’s language abilities

Recent research with the onebillion maths apps has shown that young children can use these apps independently and show significant learning gains in early mathematics. However, it is also important to consider the child’s language proficiency in the language of instruction offered within these types of maths apps. Intervention research shows young bilingual children who used the onebillion maths apps made significant gains in mathematical achievement, compared to a business as usual control group. But those with stronger proficiencies in the language of instruction made significantly more progress than those with lower language proficiencies. Likewise, review evidence suggests educational apps are better suited for children over 4 years compared to younger children under 3 years, which may in part be related to children’s developing language skills. Overall, this highlights the importance of considering the individual child’s language abilities- can they effectively understand and access the learning content in this app-based format?

Parents and children using apps together

Other maths apps, such as Bedtime Math app, has also shown positive benefits for young children and their parents. These types of apps actively encourage parents and children to use the app together. In Bedtime Math, parents and children read a short bedtime story, which then includes a related maths-based problem, which they can discuss and solve together. Research in the USA found significant benefits to children’s maths outcomes, particularly for children whose parents reported feeling anxious towards maths.

How do I choose a high-quality app?

With over half a million educational maths apps available on the Apple Store, it is not surprising that it can sometimes feel overwhelming for parents and teachers, hoping to find high-quality apps to use with their child. Currently, there are some websites providing advice and guidance based on anecdotal evidence. However, more evidence-based guidelines focus on literacy apps. We are currently developing evidence-based solutions for maths apps, through our Nuffield-funded project ‘Can Maths Apps Add Value to Learning?

Where can I find out more information?

Contact Dr Laura Outhwaite l.outhwaite@ucl.ac.uk