Bert De Smedt#


Bert De Smedt (b. 1978) received his master degree in Educational Sciences from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium. Being a research assistant of the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO), he completed his PhD in September 2006 on ‘Mathematical disabilities in children with Velo-Cardio-Facial Syndrome: A further delineation of the cognitive phenotype’. Since October 2007 he is a postdoctoral fellow of the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO), working at the Department of Educational Sciences of the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium). He is also a visiting scientist at the Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory directed by Prof. Dr. Daniel Ansari at the University of Western Ontario, Canada. Bert De Smedt is recently appointed as Assistant Professor in Educational Neuroscience at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium), starting in October 2010. His primary interest is in individual differences in children’s mathematical skills. He uses both behavioral and brain imaging methods to understand how children develop arithmetical skills and what neurocognitive mechanisms underlie this development. He aims to integrate cognitive neuroscience into educational research, contributing to the new field of Educational Neuroscience or Mind, Brain and Education. Against this background, he was a co-organizer of the Advanced Study Colloquium on “Cognitive neuroscience meets mathematics education” funded by the European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction (EARLI). Together with Dr. Daniel Ansari, he founded a new special interest group within EARLI on Neuroscience and Education, which he is currently coordinating. In June 2010, the first meeting of this SIG was held in Zurich, hosting more than 140 participants. Bert De Smedt has published various articles on the neurocognitive correlates of individual differences in mathematical achievement and on atypical mathematical development, including dyscalculia, dyslexia and children with genetic disorders.


My particular interest lies in understanding how children develop elementary mathematical skills, such as arithmetic. There is large inter-subject variability in this development, with some children having severe and persistent difficulties in this development. I particularly seek to understand what cognitive and neural factors lay at the root of these individual differences. These factors include domain-specific skills, such as understanding numerical magnitudes, as well as domain-general skills, such as working memory and phonological processing. This endeavour is accomplished by using both behavioral and brain imaging methods. I investigate these issues in both typically developing children and in children with atypical mathematical development, such as children with dyscalculia, dyslexia, 22q11 Deletion Syndrome, Turner Syndrome and mild mental retardation. In the long run, this research will provide a meaningful ground to design teaching approaches that optimally foster children’s mathematical development as well as new diagnostic and remedial techniques to prevent learning difficulties in mathematics. The overall goal of my research program is to integrate cognitive neuroscience into educational research, contributing to the new field of Educational Neuroscience or Mind, Brain and Education. This interdisciplinary endeavour will allow for a better and deeper understanding of children’s learning.


  • De Smedt, B., Reynvoet, B., Swillen, A., Verschaffel, L., Boets, B., & Ghesquière, P. (2009). Basic number processing and difficulties in single-digit arithmetic: Evidence from Velo-Cardio-Facial Syndrome. Cortex, 45, 177-188.
  • De Smedt, B., Taylor, J., Archibald, L., & Ansari, D. (2010). How is phonological processing related to individual differences in children’s arithmetic skills? Developmental Science, 13, 508-520.

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