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Gyöngyvér Molnár: Developing Problem-Solving Ability: the Effect of Intelligence and Socio-Economic Background in Years 3–11

Research on the role of intelligence in problem-solving is hardly new, yet no comprehensive large-sample empirical studies have been conducted on the relationship between the two (Wenke, Frensch and Funke, 2005). The relevant research generally consists of pilot studies, which are narrow in scope and investigate the link between intelligence and problem-solving using various types of problem situations and which are sometimes focused on one age group and conducted under laboratory conditions. In addition to describing the development of problem-solving skills, the aim of the present study is to determine: the extent to which problem-solving is affected by level of intelligence and socio-economic factors; the correlation between intelligence and problem-solving; and whether or not the strength of this correlation changes with time. Data was collected in spring 2011 from participants in Years 3–11. The children involved in the study constitute a representative sample (n=2737) in terms of their parents’ level of education and their own stage of inductive reasoning, which is a good indicator of their level of general thinking skills. Each participant completed a worksheet with real-world and static problems, a test with dynamic problems, and a background questionnaire. Children in Years 3, 5, and 7-10 also took an intelligence test (CFT 20-R). The Rasch model was used to scale the data, and the skills levels were converted to a scale with an average of 500 and a range of 100. The development of problem-solving is relatively slow (19.5 points/year). The most rapid increase takes place between Years 6 and 7 (82 points). The inflection point of the logistic curve on the empirical data, i.e. the developmentally sensitive period, is in Year 7. A significant difference exists in children’s skills level by type of school (t=-8.59; p<.01). The average skills level for vocational school children in Year 10 (451 points) is equivalent to that in Year 7, while the average for their peers in (secondary) grammar school was 90 points higher. The effect of background variables differs for static and dynamic environments and for type of school. Problem-solving in a static environment is more significantly affected (r=.48; p<.01) and predicted (25%) by children’s intelligence level than is the case in a dynamic environment (r=.39%; p<.01). Among the background variables, we cannot conclude the level of problem-solving based on the mother’s level of education or children’s grades. Only the children’s intelligence and sex proved to be predictors.

MAGYAR PEDAGÓGIA 112. Number 1. 41-58. (2012)

Levelezési cím / Address for correspondence: Molnár Gyöngyvér, SZTE Neveléstudományi Intézet, MTA-SZTE Képességfejlődés Kutatócsoport, H–6722 Szeged, Petőfi S. sgt. 30–34.


Magyar Tudományos Akadémia