Division C Interdisciplinary & Cross-Cultural
Division C Interdisciplinary & Cross-Cultural

Interdisciplinary and Cross-Cultural Investigations Into Cognitive and Motivational Underpinnings of Mathematical Development

Understanding what causes variation in mathematical ability is a crucial step toward raising students’ achievement and interest in the field and decreasing mathematical disability. In this session, five research groups from Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Russia presented new findings from multidisciplinary research on mathematical development. Their investigations of the etiology of individual differences in math ability and motivation span a range of perspectives, stages of development (preschool to the final year of schooling), ability levels (normal to talented), methodologies (longitudinal, multivariate, genetically sensitive), and cultures (four countries, including a two-country cross-cultural comparison).

The first study explores individual trajectories from early number knowledge to later mathematical ability and achievement, examining environmental predictors in infancy and preschool and documenting factors such as parenting, family, and day care that may account for differences.

The second study examines math cognition in 10-to-13-year-old same-sex twins to increase our understanding of the genetic and environmental variance and covariance among measures of numeric processing, providing important insight into the mechanisms influencing complex mathematics outcomes. This study also sheds light on the parallels and differences between mathematics and reading outcomes linked to these mechanisms.

The third study measures mathematical motivation in a large, representative longitudinal sample of monozygotic and dizygotic twins to investigate genetic and environmental sources of mathematical self-evaluation and interest in children aged 9, 12, and 16 years. The study also compares the effect on twins’ mathematical motivation of being taught by the same teacher and by different teachers.

The fourth study addresses whether mathematically gifted 16-year-old students show a different structure of relationships among spatial abilities, number sense, and mathematics skills from that found in children in the normal range of ability.

The fifth study reports a cross-cultural investigation into how groups of 16-year-old Russian and British schoolchildren differ on various aspects of mathematical ability and number sense, and on relationships between mathematical ability and number sense.

Some initial findings: 

  • Researchers pointed to new hypotheses emerging from one of the studies about the potential involvement of linguistic, curricular, and other sociocultural factors in the development of number sense, mathematical achievement, and the relationship between them.
  • Results challenge the common belief that individual differences in self-evaluation of mathematical abilities and interest are driven by environmental factors, such as parental or teacher influence, rather than genes. In the twin studies the researchers found no teacher/classroom effect. The findings suggest that even twins growing up together and often attending the same schools and classes are not necessarily similar in their attitudes toward math.
  • Results suggest that accuracy, reaction time, and number estimation factors are not only correlated because of overlapping genetic and shared environmental factors but also distinct because of independent genetic and nonshared environmental factors. Additional analyses are currently being conducted examining these measures in the context of reading and language skills.

Time: Saturday, April 14, 10:35 a.m.–12:05 p.m.  

Building/Room: Sheraton Wall Centre, Grand Ballroom Level - North Grand Ballroom A

Session Participants: 

Chair: Yulia Kovas (Goldsmiths, University of London and Tomsk State University) 

Developmental Trajectories of Number Knowledge in Preschool Children: A Closer Look at Some of Their Antecedents and Predictors Jean-Pascal Lemelin (Université de Sherbrooke), Michel Boivin (Université Laval), Nadine Forget-Dubois (Université Laval), Ginette Dionne (Université Laval), Hélène Desrosiers (Institute of Statistics Quebec), Jean Séguin (University of Montréal), Richard Ernest Tremblay (University of Montréal)

Genetic and Environmental Contributions to Math Cognition Stephen Petrill (The Ohio State University - Columbus)

The Origins of Mathematical Interest, Motivation, and Self-Perceived Ability Beata Tick (King's College London), Yulia Kovas (Goldsmiths, University of London and Tomsk State University), Robert Plomin (Kings College, London)

The Relationships Among Number Sense, Spatial Abilities, and Mathematics in Mathematically Gifted Students Olga Ovcharova (Psychological Institute of the Russian Academy of Education), Sergei Malykh (Psychological Institute of the Russian Academy of Education), Tatiana Tikhomirova (Institute of Psychology, Russian Academy of Sciences), Maria Tosto (University of London - Goldsmiths), Yulia Kovas (Goldsmiths, University of London and Tomsk State University)

Cross-Cultural Study of Individual Differences in Number Sense and Mathematics Sergei Malykh (Psychological Institute of the Russian Academy of Education), Tatiana Tikhomirova (Institute of Psychology, Russian Academy of Sciences), Maria Tosto (University of London - Goldsmiths), Maja Rodic (University of London - Goldsmiths), Robert Plomin (Kings College, London), Yulia Kovas (Goldsmiths, University of London and Tomsk State University)

Discussant: Stephen Petrill (The Ohio State University - Columbus) 


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