The developmental dynamics in mathematics, cognition, motivation and well-being in China and Finland


Extended summary
The aim is to gain knowledge about the developmental dynamics between mathematics learning, cognition, motivation and well-being in two different cultures and learning contexts – schools in China and Finland. Both countries have excelled in international students assessments (e.g. PISA), yet in both countries there is some concerns about students’ learning motivation and well-being.
Students’ mathematical skills have proved to be highly predictive of students’ overall academic achievement and educational dropout (Korhonen, Linnanmäki & Aunio, 2014). Prior 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 seems to grow (Aunio & Niemivirta, 2010; Morgan, Farkas, & Wu, 2009). Although several cognitive components, such as working and long-term memory, have been shown to be related to mathematical skills development (Bull & Kerry 2014), 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 (Niemivirta & Tapola, 2007; Tuominen-Soini, Salmela-Aro, & Niemivirta, 2008). The few studies available suggest a reciprocal developmental relationship between mathematics learning and motivation 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 and how the educational context within and between different cultures contributes to all this. 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 interplay between mathematical skills, cognition, motivational tendencies and well-being in students’ learning is needed, particularly in different learning cultures.
The aim of this study is to investigate the cross-cultural developmental dynamics in mathematical skills, motivational tendencies and cognition and well-being, with a focus on 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 grades) in both countries, and the participants will include 250 Chinese and 250 Finnish students. The study will be conducted in 2016-2019. The children will complete measures of mathematical performance and cognitive tests, and fill in questionnaires on their motivation and well-being during the school days. The measurements will be carried out in the classrooms with each student individually working on the tests and questionnaires.

The study will be commenced in October 2016 with piloting phase in both countries, and then in December 2016 - January 2017 with actual data collection involving 250 students in both countries. The second measurement is on December 2017 – January 2018.

Knowledge on these developmental dynamics is highly important for educators, so that they can understand and support individual learners better, avoid educational drop out and increase the possibility of promoting every students true potential. This information will be provided for the educators through relevant internet solutions (e.g., web-services)
Effective start/end date01/08/201631/12/2018