Logo: Deutsches Institut für Internationale Pädagogische Forschung


Cultural Differences in Numerical Magnitude Processing

This DIPF 2015 project focuses on investigating in how far cultural differences as found in international comparisons of student achievement in mathematics are also evident in basic numerical skills.


Large-scale assessments of mathematical school achievement have revealed substantial cultural differences, with students from Asian countries showing top achievement levels, particularly Chinese students from Shanghai (see PISA 2009). This research project focuses on the question whether similar cultural differences also concern basic numerical skills

Objectives of the project

Findings from a pilot study indicate that Chinese adults do not only outperform German adults in arithmetic tests, but are also faster in processing approximate numerical magnitude comparisons without making any more errors. It is however unclear whether such a cultural difference also concerns the exact representation of small quantities. To answer this question, Chinese and German adults will be compared with respect to their performance in retrieving exact representations of small quantities. Another open question is whether the superior performance of Chinese adults in processing speed in approximate numerical magnitude comparisons is caused by a stronger engagement with mathematical contents in the course of schooling or whether there exist independent cultural differences. To pursue this question, Chinese and German preschool children will be compared with respect to their numerical magnitude processing skills.

Co-operation partners

  • Song Yan, Professor of Psychology, Jacobs University, Bremen
  • Su Li, Associate Professor, Institute of Psychology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing

Project management

Project details

Current projects
11/2013 - 12/2015
Department: Department of Education and Human Development
last modified Nov 11, 2015