Using Potential Performance Theory to Assess Differences in Math Abilities between Citizens from India and the United States

  •  Stephen Rice    
  •  David Trafimow    


For years, researchers and academics have known that American students perform more poorly on average compared to students from some other countries, including India. The usual explanation is that some systematic factor (e.g. knowledge, skill set, test-taking ability, etc.) is responsible for the differences. The current study examines the issue from a different perspective; we assess the consistency in which participants performed in an Algebra test, and used this consistency to determine their potential performance. Participants were randomly selected from India and the United States and were given a 50-question algebra test, followed by a break, and then followed by the same test again. The data revealed that while the Indian participants scored about 8% higher on the test, the majority of their performance increase was due to being more consistent than their American counterparts.

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