David C. Geary

David C. Geary
Curators' Distinguished Professor
212B McAlester
(573) 882-6268
Lab Area: 
Research Interests: 

Learning Disabilities

In 2002, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development developed a new program area entitled Mathematics and Science Cognition and Learning, Development and Disorders. The objectives of this program are to explore the critical genetic, neurobiological, cognitive, linguistic, socio-cultural, and instructional factors that influence normal and atypical development in math and science. The Cognitive Development Lab in the Department of Psychological Sciences at the University of Missouri was one of a select few research centers that were initially funded under this program area. We are in the ninth year of a long-term study of Mathematical Development – The MU Math Study. The goals are to identify the mechanisms that contribute to mathematical learning through algebra and the mechanisms that underlie learning disabilities in mathematics.

As part of these efforts, we are collaborating with Vinod Menon at Stanford University School of Medicine on brain imaging studies of children's mathematical problem solving, and Lynn Fuchs at Vanderbilt University on the effects of interventions on children's mathematical cognition.


Theoretical projects include attempts to integrate sexual selection (e.g., male-male competition) and life history research in evolutionary biology to empirical research in developmental psychology. Current projects examine hormonal changes that occur during men's competitive activities, and men's sensitivity to fertility changes in women.


David C. Geary is a cognitive developmental psychologist with interests in mathematical learning and in evolution. After receiving his Ph.D. in 1986 from the University of California at Riverside, he held faculty positions at the University of Texas at El Paso and the University of Missouri, first at the Rolla campus and then in Columbia. Dr. Geary is currently a Curators’ Professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences, and severed as department chair from 2002-2005, and from 2000 to 2003 he was the University of Missouri’s Middlebush Professor of Psychological Sciences. He has published nearly than 250 articles and chapters across a wide range of topics, including cognitive and developmental psychology, education, evolutionary biology, and medicine, including three sole-authored books, Children's mathematical development (1994), Male, female: The evolution of human sex differences (1998), and The origin of mind: Evolution of brain, cognition, and general intelligence (2005), and one co-authored book, Sex differences: Summarizing more than a century of scientific research (Ellis et al., 2008). The second edition of Male, female appeared to 2010. He has given invited addresses in a variety of departments (anthropology, biology, behavior genetics, computer science, education, government, mathematics, neuroscience, physics, and psychology) and Universities throughout the United States, as well as in Austria, Belgium, Canada, England, Germany, Italy, and Portugal.

In addition to these academic activities, he was a key contributor to the 1999 Mathematics Framework for California Public Schools: Kindergarten through grade twelve. Dr. Geary served on the President’s National Mathematics Panel and chaired the panel’s Learning Processes task-group. Dr. Geary was appointed by President Bush to the National Board of Directors for the Institute for Education Sciences (U.S. Department of Education), and served through 2010.

Dr. Geary has also contributed to more applied issues, especially as related to mathematics education. He and Dr. Hamson developed a web-based document for the American Psychological Association, Improving Mathematics and Science Achievement of American Children. The goal was to outline research and educational issues in mathematics and science, as related to the goal of American children attaining international standards in these areas. Based on his studies of children’s mathematical learning and learning disabilities, he has written pieces for parents and teachers on the topic, including a recent article for the Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development.

Among many distinctions is the Chancellor's Award for Outstanding Research and Creative Activity in the Social and Behavioral Sciences (1996), Thomas Jefferson Fellow (University of Missouri System), a scientific MERIT award from the National Institutes of Health, and Fellow of American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Selected Publications: 

Geary, D. C., Hoard, M. K., Nugent, L., & Bailey, D. H. (2012). Mathematical cognition deficits in children with learning disabilities and persistent low achievement: A five year prospective study. Journal of Educational Psychology, 104, 206–223.

Jašarevic, E., Bailey, D. H., Crossland, J. P., Dawson, W., Szalai, G., Ellersieck , M. R., Rosenfeld, C. S., & Geary, D. C. (2012). Evolution of monogamy, paternal investment, and female life history in Peromyscus. Journal of Comparative Psychology, 125.

Geary, D. C. (2011, September). The evolved mind in the modern classroom. Scientific American Mind, 22, 44-49.

Geary, D. C. (2011). Cognitive predictors of individual differences in achievement growth in mathematics: A five year longitudinal study. Developmental Psychology, 47, 1539-1552.

Jašarevic, E., Sieli, P . T., Twellman, E. E., Welsh, T. H. Jr, Schachtman, T. R., Roberts, R. M. Geary, D. C., & Rosenfeld, C. S. (2011). Disruption of adult expression of sexually selected traits by early exposure to Bisphenol A. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 108, 11715-11720. (Co-senior author ).

Cho, S., Ryali, S., Geary, D. C., & Menon, V. (2011). How do you solve 7+8?: Decoding children's brain activity patterns during counting versus retrieval. Developmental Science, 14, 989-1001.

Geary, D. C. (2010). Male, female: The evolution of human sex differences (second edition). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Vigil, J. M., Geary, D. C., Flinn, M. V., & Granger, D. A. (2010). Sex differences in salivary cortisol, alpha-amylase, and psychological functioning following hurricane Katrina. Child Development, 81, 1228-1240

Fuchs, L. S., Geary, D. C., Compton, D. L., Fuchs, D., & Hamlett, C. L. (2010). The contributions of numerosity and domain-general abilities for school readiness. Child Development, 81, 1520-1533.

Eriksson, K., Bailey, D. H., & Geary, D. C. (2010). The grammar of approximating number pairs. Memory & Cognition, 38, 333-343.

Oxford, J., Ponzi, D., & Geary, D. C. (2010). Hormonal responses differ when playing violent video games against an ingroup and outgroup. Evolution and Human Behavior, 31, 201-209.

Fuchs, L., Geary, D. C., Compton, D. L., Fuchs, D., Hamlett, C. L., Seethaler, P. M., Bryant, J. D., & Schatschneider, C. (2010). Do different types of school mathematics development depend on different constellations of numerical versus general cognitive abilities? Developmental Psychology, 46, 1731-1746.

Geary, D. C. (2010). Mathematical learning disabilities. In J. Holmes (Ed.), Advances in Child Development and Behavior (Vol. 38, pp. 45-77). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

Bailey, D. H, & Geary, D. C. (2009). Hominid brain evolution: Testing climatic, ecological, and social competition models. Human Nature, 20, 265-279.

Geary, D. C., Hoard, M. K., Nugent, L., & Byrd-Craven, J. (2008). Development of number line representations in children with mathematical learning disability. Developmental Neuropsychology, 33, 277-299.

Geary, D. C., Hoard, M. K., Nugent, L., & Byrd-Craven, J. (2008). Development of number line representations in children with mathematical learning disability. Developmental Neuropsychology, 33, 277-299.

Geary, D. C. (2008). An evolutionarily informed education science. Educational Psychologist, 43, 279-295.

Geary, D. C., Hoard, M. K., Byrd-Craven, J., Nugent, L., & Numtee, C. (2007). Cognitive mechanisms underlying achievement deficits in children with mathematical learning disability. Child Development, 78, 1343-1359.

Halpern, D., Benbow, C., Geary, D. C., Gur, R., Hyde, J., & Gernsbacher, M. A. (2007). The science of sex differences in science and mathematics. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 8 (No 1, 1-52).

Geary, D. C. (2006). Development of mathematical understanding. In D. Kuhl & R. S. Siegler (Vol. Eds.), Cognition, perception, and language, Vol 2 (pp. 777-810). W. Damon (Gen. Ed.), Handbook of child psychology (6th Ed.). New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Geary, D. C. (Ed.) (2006). Evolutionary developmental psychology. Developmental Review, 26 (special issue, pp. 113-276).

Geary, D. C. (2005). The origin of mind: Evolution of brain, cognition, and general intelligence. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Japanese translation (2008). Tokyo, Japan: Baifukan. Translator: Ryo Oda.