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Exploring the links between household chores, learning, and mathematics performance in Zambia

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In Zambia, as well as many other African and non-Western cultures, the extent and kind of children’s chores may contribute to their learning, yet often also conflict with their schooling. In the moderation analysis we present in this manuscript, we aimed to explore the interactive effects of schooling and chores on children’s mathematics performance at different levels of math knowledge and computational skill, taking into account how the assessment questions were presented. The sample consisted of 1,535 children (719 girls) living in rural and peri-urban communities in Zambia who were administered the Zambia Achievement Test (ZAT). We categorized the 60 items of the ZAT by their targeted content knowledge, sizes of the numbers involved, and forms of representation. Our results showed that chores supported the development of very basic mathematics skills and knowledge in children who had less schooling, but also significantly lowered the performance of students who were in school once their school attendance rose above certain levels. Moreover, this interaction between chores and school attendance was observed predominantly in girls, with a lesser effect of chores on boys.

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We would like to acknowledge the children and families whose participation made this work possible, as well as the Zambian professionals and scholars whose contributions to this work were invaluable.

University of Zambia, Zambia: Florence Chamvu, Jacqueline Jere-Folotiya, Bestern Kaani, Kalima Kalima, Sophie Kasonde N’gandu, Robert Serpell; Yale University: Lesley Hart; Stanford University, USA: Hilary Chart; Paris College of Art, France: Linda Jarvin; Mars Hill College, USA: Jonna Kwiatkowski; Center for Children with Special Needs, USA: Tina Newman; Wesleyan University, USA: Steven E. Stemler; Macha Research Trust / Malaria Institute at Macha, Zambia: Philip E. Thuma; University of California, Davis, USA: Carolyn Yrigollen


This paper was supported by funding from the National Institutes of Health (TW008274 and TW006764; PI: Grigorenko). Grantees undertaking such projects are encouraged to express their professional judgment freely, therefore this article does not necessarily represent the policies or position of the NIH and no official endorsement should be inferred.

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All authors contributed to the study conception, design and writing of this manuscript. Original material preparation and data collection were performed by the Learning Disabilities Project Team led by Elena Grigorenko. Mathematics item coding for this study was carried out by David Bolden, Joe Pirozzolo and Mei Tan; data analyses were carried out by Joe Pirozzolo and Nan Li. The first draft of the manuscript was written by Mei Tan, and all authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Elena L. Grigorenko.

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This study was approved by the Human Subjects Committee of the Yale University Institutional Review Board (Protocol #0410000155). The study was performed in accordance with the ethical standards as laid down in the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Written and signed informed consents were collected from all participants; informed consent for children’s participation was received from their parents/caregivers.

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• In our sample of Zambian children, girls had higher levels of school attendance and carried out more chores.

• The amount of chores carried out by children moderates the relationship between their school attendance and mathematics performance.

• The moderating effect of chores on the relationship between their school attendance and mathematics performance varies by type of mathematics problem for boys and girls.

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Tan, M., Li, N., Pirozzolo, J.W. et al. Exploring the links between household chores, learning, and mathematics performance in Zambia. Curr Psychol 42, 20397–20408 (2023).

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