Emily Fyfe

Emily Fyfe

Assistant Professor, Psychological and Brain Sciences


  • 2015 – Ph.D. in Psychological Sciences, Vanderbilt University
  • 2010 – B.A. in Psychology, University of Notre Dame

Research interests

Children’s knowledge is continuously changing as they observe and interact with people and the world. To that end, my research focuses on the construction and organization of knowledge, with an emphasis on how children think, learn, and solve problems in mathematics. Children exhibit surprisingly intricate knowledge of key math ideas and can generate informal strategies to solve complex problems. Nevertheless, proficiency with mathematics in formal settings is often difficult to achieve. My research is motivated by a question facing cognitive scientists, developmental psychologists, and education practitioners alike: How can we support children’s learning so that it leads to the construction of robust and meaningful knowledge?

Thus, my research is in cognitive development with a focus on the development of mathematics knowledge and problem solving. My primary goal is to understand how children think and learn about math, both independently and with instructional guidance. My research not only helps identify basic cognitive processes that support the construction of knowledge, but also examines how to use that information to design effective instructional techniques.

Representative publications

Concreteness fading in mathematics and science instruction: A systematic review (2014)
Emily R Fyfe, Nicole M McNeil, Ji Y Son and Robert L Goldstone
Springer US. 26 (1), 25-Sep

“Concreteness fading” promotes transfer of mathematical knowledge (2012)
Nicole M McNeil and Emily R Fyfe
Learning and Instruction, 22 (6), 440-448

Benefits of practicing 4= 2+ 2: Nontraditional problem formats facilitate children’s understanding of mathematical equivalence (2011)
Nicole M McNeil, Emily R Fyfe, Lori A Petersen, April E Dunwiddie and Heather Brletic‐Shipley
Child development, 82 (5), 1620-1633

Feedback both helps and hinders learning: The causal role of prior knowledge (2016)
Emily R Fyfe and Bethany Rittle-Johnson
Journal of Educational Psychology, 108 (1), 82

Emerging understanding of patterning in 4-year-olds (2013)
Bethany Rittle-Johnson, Emily R Fyfe, Laura E McLean and Katherine L McEldoon
Journal of Cognition and Development, 14 (3), 376-396

Early math trajectories: Low‐income children's mathematics knowledge from ages 4 to 11 (2017)
Bethany Rittle‐Johnson, Emily R Fyfe, Kerry G Hofer and Dale C Farran
Child Development, 88 (5), 1727-1742

Benefits of “concreteness fading” for children's mathematics understanding (2015)
Emily R Fyfe, Nicole M McNeil and Stephanie Borjas
Learning and Instruction, 35 104-120

An alternative time for telling: When conceptual instruction prior to problem solving improves mathematical knowledge (2014)
Emily R Fyfe, Marci S DeCaro and Bethany Rittle‐Johnson
British journal of educational psychology, 84 (3), 502-519

Arithmetic practice can be modified to promote understanding of mathematical equivalence (2015)
Nicole M McNeil, Emily R Fyfe and April E Dunwiddie
Journal of Educational Psychology, 107 (2), 423

Beyond numeracy in preschool: Adding patterns to the equation (2015)
Bethany Rittle-Johnson, Emily R Fyfe, Abbey M Loehr and Michael R Miller
Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 31 101-112

It pays to be organized: Organizing arithmetic practice around equivalent values facilitates understanding of math equivalence (2012)
Nicole M McNeil, Dana L Chesney, Percival G Matthews, Emily R Fyfe, Lori A Petersen, April E Dunwiddie ...
Journal of Educational Psychology, 104 (4), 1109

The influence of relational knowledge and executive function on preschoolers’ repeating pattern knowledge (2016)
Michael R Miller, Bethany Rittle-Johnson, Abbey M Loehr and Emily R Fyfe
Journal of Cognition and Development, 17 (1), 85-104

When feedback is cognitively-demanding: The importance of working memory capacity (2015)
Emily R Fyfe, Marci S DeCaro and Bethany Rittle-Johnson
Instructional Science, 43 (1), 73-91

Easy as ABCABC: Abstract language facilitates performance on a concrete patterning task (2015)
Emily R Fyfe, Nicole M McNeil and Bethany Rittle‐Johnson
Child development, 86 (3), 927-935

Providing feedback on computer-based algebra homework in middle-school classrooms (2016)
Emily R Fyfe
Computers in Human Behavior, 63 568-574