Inhibitory Control in Mathematics

We are no longer taking applications for this Work Group.


It has often been suggested that inhibitory control is needed when we select appropriate mathematical strategies.

Children might have a default, or automatic, strategy to use in a particular situation. If we want children to stop, take notice and consider alternative strategies, then they need to use inhibitory control to resist applying the default strategy. We are interested in finding out whether we can encourage children to exert their inhibitory control and whether this will allow them to generate a wider range of strategies and select the most appropriate.

This area of focus has arisen out of previous work undertaken with schools in the
South West where it was observed that learners from 7 to 15 were relying on default strategies when faced with problems involving calculation and algebraic

Research study design:

This co-designed study brings together educators and researchers. It is part of
exploring how we bridge the divide between practice and research and how learning from practice can lead to research. Teachers will be active participants in the research; this will include making decisions as part of the design process.
The study will be supported by four maths advisers from the DES Maths Team, based in Devon and involved with the Jurassic Maths Hub, and three researchers from the Centre for Mathematical Cognition at Loughborough University.


Participating teachers will be asked to engage in all aspects of the study across the year as set out in the table below. There is a launch day, three online meetings during the year and a final meeting allowing for participants to share observations and together develop thinking further. Participants will be asked to keep reflective journals where they can capture their observations in relation to the work of the study. Support will also be available through a visit from a maths adviser.

Most of the work in the study will take place as part of existing maths lessons, where teachers will explore strategies for supporting inhibitory control. They will select some focus learners as case studies where inhibitory control as described above appears to be an issue.

We are no longer taking applications for this Work Group.