Liverpool Early Number Skills Project

Examining the influence of the home learning environment, language and cognitive abilities on children's early number skills.

The Liverpool Early Number Skills Project (LENS) is a longitudinal project that will track the development of children’s early number skills from their preschool year into primary school. Identifying the factors that support the development of early numbers skills is important because these skills provide the foundations of later mathematical attainment. Findings will determine the extent to which cognitive, language and environmental factors influence early numeracy with the aim of informing early childhood education policy and practice.

Project overview

LENS logoThe project will examine the influence of the home learning environment (HLE), language skills and cognitive abilities on growth in early number skills. Our central focus will be on the extent that the HLE influences the development of early number skills, but we will also analyse other environmental factors including the quality of the preschool environment and socioeconomic status.

The study will recruit 250 children in their preschool year (i.e. the academic year in which they turn four). In the first year of the study, assessments of their early number skills, home learning environment and preschool experience will take place. We will also assess the children’s cognitive and language skills during this academic year. Follow-up assessments of the children’s number skills and mathematical attainment will be made when the children have transitioned to primary school. We will use this longitudinal data to examine three key research questions:

  1. To what extent do preschool language and cognitive skills predict growth in early number skills?
  2. To what extent do aspects of the home learning environment (such as number-oriented and language and literacy-oriented practices) predict growth in early number skills?
  3. To what extent are the relationships between the quality of the home learning environment and early number skills direct and to what extent are they indirect via the promotion of language skills?

Results aim to contribute and to extend our current understanding of the factors that promote and constrain the development of early number skills. We aim to:

  • Inform policy-makers and parents of the factors that constitute supportive early learning environments, which promote the development of early number skills in very young children.
  • Identify the factors that constrain early number skills' development, paving the way for the development of early support strategies.

The project has an advisory panel that is consulted when planning and implementing different aspects of the project. This includes Professor Gaia Scerif who is leading a related project at the University of Oxford (see details of this project) and Mr Jamie Roy (Director of New Brighton Day Nursery) who can advise on practice implications.


Nuffield FoundationLENS is funded by a Nuffield Foundation Research and Innovation grant entitled ‘Understanding the influence of cognition and the home learning environment on early number skills’. The Nuffield Foundation is an endowed charitable trust that aims to improve social well-being in the widest sense. It funds research and innovation in education and social policy and also works to build capacity in education, science and social science research. The Nuffield Foundation has funded this project, but the views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Foundation.

More information is available from the Nuffield Foundation website including project specific details.

Project team and contact information

Principal Investigator:

Dr Fiona Simmons


Dr Catherine Willis


Dr Anne-Marie Adams

Research associate:

Dr Elena Soto-Calvo

Get in touch with the project team:
Email: | Telephone: 0151 904 6338

Preschool setting recruitment

We are currently recruiting preschool settings (e.g. nursery classes within primary schools, community preschools and private nurseries) in Merseyside and Cheshire. Any preschool setting with children attending their preschool year (i.e. the academic year in which they turn four) is eligible to participate. Only children with written parental consent at the participating settings would take part in the study. If you are a parent or an educator and would like your preschool setting to participate, please contact the research team using the project email or telephone number given above.