Mathematical knowledge is related to understanding stocks and flows: results from two nations

Authors

  • Liang Qi,

    1. Dynamic Decision Making Laboratory, Department of Social and Decision Sciences, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, U.S.A
    2. Department of Health Service, Second Military Medical University, Shanghai, China
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  • Cleotilde Gonzalez

    Corresponding author
    1. Dynamic Decision Making Laboratory, Department of Social and Decision Sciences, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA, U.S.A
    • Correspondence to: Cleotilde Gonzalez, Dynamic Decision Making Laboratory, Department of Social and Decision Sciences, Carnegie Mellon University, 4609 Winthrop Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, U.S.A. E-mail: coty@cmu.edu

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Abstract

Stocks and flows (SF) are essential to every-day judgments: debt changes with rates of incomes and expenses, and body weight with calories consumed and energy expended. Research suggests that individuals with strong mathematical skills have a poor understanding of SF. However, past research used homogeneous participant samples and the relationship between mathematical knowledge and performance in SF tasks was not tested. In two studies involving different populations from China and the U.S.A, we find that individuals with better general mathematical knowledge tend to be more accurate in SF tasks. We find that most participants who make mistakes follow an erroneous correlation heuristic; however, we also find that the use of this heuristic is not related to mathematical knowledge. Our results open the door to new research questions, including the type of mathematical knowledge needed and the relationship of mathematical knowledge and cognitive processes that people need for solving SF tasks. Copyright © 2015 System Dynamics Society

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