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Title: Identifying sources of individual and cross-cultural differences in mathematical ability
Author: Bjedov, Maja Rodic
ISNI:       0000 0004 5356 8003
Awarding Body: Goldsmiths College (University of London)
Current Institution: Goldsmiths College (University of London)
Date of Award: 2015
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Good mathematical skills are extremely important in today’s quantitatively oriented societies and are related to various desirable life outcomes, ranging from better jobs and education to the mental health and wellbeing. The development of mathematical skills is influenced by complex blend of biological and cultural factors. Mathematical ability is a highly heritable trait, although the search for the genetic variants affecting it has to date not been very fruitful. Cross-cultural research identified some differences in mathematics, with children from East Asia outperforming the rest of the world on mathematical tests across different ages. This thesis aims to provide new insights into the sources of individual and cross-cultural differences in mathematics and mathematically related domains. Chapters 1 and 2 provided both, literature review of the factors influencing individual differences in mathematical achievement, as well as two approaches employed in this thesis to study them. Chapters 3, 4 and 5 investigated the existence and the sources of the individual and cross-cultural differences in mathematics and mathematically related traits, both before and at the beginning of the formal schooling in more than 600 5-9-years old children from 5 distinct populations UK, China, Russia, and Kyrgyz and Dungan populations from Kyrgyzstan. The results suggest that in line with the previous studies, cross-cultural differences in mathematics exist even at the beginning of the formal education with the Chinese children outperforming the rest of the populations. The mechanisms related to individual differences in mathematics are similar across populations before the formal schooling and become more diverse as the children start formal education. Chapter 6 reports an investigation into the genetic variants implicated in mathematics and mathematically related traits employing the genotypic and phenotypic data from two samples: (1) ~3000 12- and 16- year old children from Twin Early Development Study (TEDS) in the UK; and (2) 371 17-21-year old students from 4 Russia. In line with the previous research, the results suggest that mathematics and mathematically related traits are influenced by many genetic variants of very small effects and that the larger sample sizes are needed to address the discrepancy between heritability estimates and number of identified genetic variants. Chapter 7 concludes with general discussion and suggestions for future directions.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral