Biography of Dr. Robert S. Siegler
National Mathematics Advisory Panel
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Robert Siegler is Teresa Heinz Professor of Cognitive Psychology at Carnegie Mellon University. His research focuses on children's thinking, particularly mathematical and scientific thinking. Since coming to Carnegie Mellon in 1974, he has published more than 200 articles and chapters, written 8 books, and edited 5 others. His books have been translated into numerous languages, including Japanese, Chinese, Korean, German, French, Greek, and Portuguese.

Dr. Siegler's current research focuses on the development of estimation skills and how children's basic understanding of numbers influences their estimation and overall math achievement. The research examines not only how children's understanding changes with age but also why some children within a given grade are so much more proficient than others at math. The general overlapping waves theory of cognitive development, described by Siegler in his 1996 book "Emerging Minds," has proven useful for understanding the acquisition of a variety of math skills and concepts, including arithmetic, proportionality, mathematical equality, decimal fractions, number conservation, and estimation. Overlapping waves theory emphasizes that individual children know and use a variety of strategies for solving problems, that they choose among them in adaptive ways, and that development involves not only acquisition of new strategies and ways of thinking about problems but also increasingly adaptive choices among the approaches, increasing reliance on the most effective approaches, and increasingly efficient execution of whichever approach is chosen. In addition to unifying a wide range of empirical findings, the theory also has yielded practical applications, including development of board games that yield broad improvement in the numerical understanding of low-income preschoolers.

The contribution of Dr. Siegler's research has been recognized in numerous ways. In 2006, he received the Brotherton Fellowship from the University of Melbourne (Australia). In 2005, he was awarded the American Psychological Association's Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award. In 2004, he was presented an honorary doctorate by the University of Liege (Belgium). From 1997-2002, he served as Psychology Delegate for Oxford University Press. In 1998, he was named to the "40 in 40" list of distinguished alumni from SUNY at Stony Brook's first 40 years. Dr. Siegler also has been invited to give keynote addresses at more than 20 conferences, including ones in England, Scotland, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Japan, Chile, Brazil, and Australia.

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Last Modified: 05/19/2006