The Developmental Dynamics in Mathematics, Cognition, Motivation and Well-being in China and Finland

Professor Sha Tao, Beijing Normal University, Peoples Republic of China

Professor Markku Niemivirta, University of Helsinki, Finland

Professor Pirjo Aunio, University of Helsinki, Finland


Students’ mathematical skills have proved to be highly predictive of students’ overall academic achievement and educational dropout. The existing developmental studies have shown individual differences in mathematical skills to be evident already in preschool, and from then on, the gap between low and high performing students only gets bigger. Relatively little is also known about the role students’ motivation (e.g., goals, interests and self-perceptions) plays in the development of their mathematical skills. Studies suggest a reciprocal developmental relationship between mathematics and motivational tendencies with a strengthening tendency during the school years. However, it is still not clear when and how the coupling of mathematical skills and motivation emerges, and what long-term effects this interdependence have on students’ achievement. Even less is known about its consequences for students’ well-being. Few studies have reported the development and interrelations of these factors in low performing students, although applied work suggests that cognitive and motivational deficits influence each other and either one of them may contribute to being identified with a learning difficulty in a given domain. Consequently, systematic developmental research on the predictive role of the coupling of mathematical skills, cognition, motivational tendencies and well-being in students’ learning. Especially we lack information how this developmental dynamics is occurring in different learning cultures.

The aim of this study is to investigate the cross-cultural developmental dynamics in mathematical skills, motivational tendencies and cognitive components. We are interested how the development advances in children aged nine up to 12 years old. The longitudinal data will include four measurement points) (i.e. third, fourth fifth and sixth grade) in both countries. There will be 150 Chinese and 150 Finnish students participating this study. The study is done in 2016-2019.

This study will contribute the scientific field by providing new information from children’s mathematical skills, cognition, motivation and well-being development in two different learning contexts.