Study 12: Valuing in Confidence [ViC]

Analysis of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) 2019 data for more than 21,000 students in East Asia (i.e. Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, and Singapore) had revealed 11 variables which best predicted these students’ world-leading performance (Wang, King & Leung, 2022). Amongst these, the most significant variable was reported to be students’ confidence in mathematics. Yet, at both Grades 4 and 8, the mathematics confidence levels of these East Asian students were amongst the 9th and 13th lowest when compared amongst the 58 and 39 participating jurisdictions respectively (Mullis et al, 2020). Table 1 summarises these rankings.

Of course, there is the possibility of the East Asian students under-reporting their confidence levels against a cultural context of humility. The extent of this under-reporting may be hard to ascertain, but it is fair to argue that any correction for this will still not propel the East Asian jurisdictions to the top of the ranking in a way which matches their performance ranking.

We are thus left with a situation in which student confidence in mathematics predicts performance in East Asia, but it does not appear to do so elsewhere. Given that TIMSS 2019 regards student confidence in mathematics as the extent to which students think they can do mathematics well (Mullis et al, 2020), might there be culturally different values relating to ‘doing well in mathematics’? If this is so, then the paradox can be explained by examining the degree of alignment between these values and what are valued in the relevant assessment exercise. For example, a student may embrace the valuing of accuracy in relation to doing well in mathematics, when another student may value understanding instead. Both can be feeling very confident about their ability to do well in their respective mathematics learning, yet when faced with an assessment exercise whose design awards accurate answers, the first student will be perceived as achieving in the assessment, when compared to the second student.

Thus, if we aim to nurture students’ confidence in their mathematics learning, we need to know and understand what attributes need to be valued which are aligned with (assessment) expectations of this mathematics learning. In this study, we pose the following Research Questions:

RQ1: For students in East Asia who are confident in mathematics, what do they value in relation to doing well in mathematics?
RQ2: For students outside East Asia who are confident in mathematics, what do they value in relation to doing well in mathematics?
RQ3: How might the different values relating to doing well in mathematics embraced by students who are confident in mathematics account for differences in mathematics performances?

It is expected that these findings can translate to useful and enabling teaching approaches for mathematics classrooms around the world.

This is a new research study scheduled for launch in 2024 Mar. It is exciting to have the partnership of our colleagues from Italy, Korea, Thailand and Vietnam in this latest study!


Prof Wee Tiong SEAH (The University of Melbourne, Australia)

Research teams:

AustraliaProf Wee Tiong SEAH
Faculty of Education, The University of Melbourne
ChinaProf Heng Jun TANG
Zhejiang Normal University
GermanyDr Ralf ERENS
Pädagogische Hochschule Freiburg
ItalyDr Federica FERRETTI
University of Ferrara
KoreaProf Jeong Suk PANG
Korea National University of Education
ThailandDr Narumon CHANGSRI
Khon Kaen University
VietnamDr Lien Le Thi Bach
Quang Binh University


Questionnaire (English version)
Questionnaire (simplified Chinese version)
Questionnaire (German version)
Questionnaire (Italian version)
Questionnaire (Korean version)
Questionnaire (Thai version)
Questionnaire (Vietnamese version)

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