About Me

I love synthesizing and communicating complex information through writing, research, data analysis, and spoken communication.

In my 8+ years of experience as a developmental psychologist, I have used sound experimental design principals to answer complex problems, focusing on the study of learning and math education.

As a data analyst, I employ both data exploration and hypothesis testing methods to gain new insights.

Research and data are only useful when they can be effectively communicated to decision-makers. As a writer and instructor, I synthesize and present complex content in an appropriate manner for a wide variety of audiences, including lay audiences, granting agencies, and scientists.

Contact me at neonbluebooks[AT]gmail.com.

Skills and Experience

  • Concise writing that makes complex scientific material accessible
  • Oral presentations and teaching for expert and lay audiences
  • Python; JavaScript; HTML; SVG; Unix
  • Regression and heirarchical models; causal inference; hypothesis testing

Writing and Editing

In my freelance work, I create detailed written reports, summaries, and minutes for scientific workshops and meetings. I also provide editing services to academic clients, and provide assistance with grant writing. While much of my work is confidential, an example of a long-form written report is available below. Examples of grant applications, abstracts, and editing work are available upon request.

Mixed Emoticon: An Interdisciplinary Conference on Mixed Emotions (conference report)

Research Projects

Training Numeracy and Basic Geometry in India

I have contributed to two ongoing projects that use games to train children's understanding of number and geometry concepts. The first explores the role that symbolic content, like language, as well as nonsymbolic content, like maps and arrays of objects, plays in training these skills. The second involves designing digital game materials with the goal of reaching millions of Indian schoolchildren through mobile devices within 5 years. These projects are collaborations between the Harvard Lab for Developmental Studies, J-PAL, Pratham, Ekstep, and the University of Chicago Center in Delhi.

Reasoning about Lengths and Angles

Geometry is a highly spatial domain, but the content is nonetheless abstract and difficult for children to learn. In this research I have studied what roles gesture, language, and other symbol systems might play in facilitating geometrical reasoning. Additionally, I have explored how more concrete simulation strategies might interact with abstract, rule-based formulations of geometrical rules. Understanding the similarities and differences between how gesture is used in geometrical reasoning, compared to less spatial mathematical domains such as algebra, can help us understand the role of gesture in learning more broadly. This work is in close collaboration with Moira Dillon and Elizabeth Spelke at the Harvard Lab for Developmental Studies

Gesture in Math Learning

Research has shown that hand gestures can be a powerful learning tool, both when used by teachers, and when used by students. My studies test the limits of gesture's power to influence math learning in order to gain an understanding of how gesture interacts with abstract math concepts to lead to number learning.

  • Brooks, N., & Goldin-Meadow, S. (2015). Moving to learn: How guiding the hands can set the stage for learning. Cognitive Science. pdf
  • Congdon, E. L., Novack., M. A., Brooks, N., Hemani-Lopez, N., O'Keefe, L., & Goldin-Meadow, S. (under review). Better Together: Simultaneous Presentation of Speech and Gesture in Math Instruction Supports Generalization and Retention.

Mental Abacus

Mental Abacus is a method of doing arithmetic in which users imagine the movements of beads on an abacus to carry out operations. My research has studied the role that gesture plays in Mental Abacus calculation, in order to shed light on the ways that visual imagery, gesture, and mathematical cognition interrelate.

  • Barner, D., Alvarez, G., Sullivan, J., Brooks, N., Srinivasan, M., & Frank, M. C. (2014). Learning Mathematics in a Visuospatial Format: A Randomized, Controlled Trial of Mental Abacus Instruction. Child Development. pdf
  • Brooks, N., Barner, D., Frank, M., & Goldin-Meadow, S. (under review). Motor Planning of Gesture Supports Numerical Computation in Mental Abacus.

Early Linguistic and Numerical Development

Learning begins well before children ever enter a classroom. I have extensive expertise on early linguistic development, especially as it relates to early-developing number concepts. My research has demonstrated the importance of social and pragmatic reasoning in children's understanding of early mathematical concepts.

  • Brooks, N., Audet, J. & Barner, D. (2013). Pragmatic Inference, Not Semantic Competence, Guides 3- Year-Olds’ Interpretation of Unknown Number Words. Developmental Psychology. pdf
  • Caponigro, I., Pearl, L., Brooks, N., & Barner, D. (2012). On the Acquisition of Maximality in Free Relative Clauses and Plural Definite Descriptions. Journal of Semantics, 29(2), 261-293. and Plural Definite Descriptions. Journal of Semantics, 29(2), 261-293. pdf
  • Barner, D., Brooks, N., & Bale, A. (2011). Accessing the Unsaid: The role of scalar alternatives in children’s pragmatic inference. Cognition, 118(1), 84-93. pdf
  • Brooks, N., Pogue, A., & Barner, D. (2011). Piecing Together Numerical Language: Children's Use of Default Units in Early Counting and Quantification. Developmental Science, 14(1), 44-57.pdf