Perspectives on Early Childhood Psychology and Education

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The present study uses both quantitative and qualitative approaches to examine: (1) U.S. and Mexican children’s ability to understand basic relational concepts in directions; and (2) to analyze language arts and math textbooks to determine the levels of complexity in directions (i.e., number of qualifiers or concepts embedded in the directions). A total of 265 first grade (n = 128) and second-grade (n = 137) children in Mexico were assessed using the Boehm Test of Basic Concepts-Revised (BTBC-R) Applications Booklet. Their performance was compared to the U.S. standardized sample of the BTBC-R to make cross-cultural comparisons. Results from the quantitative study suggest that U.S. children at both grade levels outperformed Mexican children on direction following tasks. Furthermore, both cultural groups demonstrated developmental progression from first to second grade. Qualitative analysis of language arts and mathematics textbooks in both U.S. and Mexico revealed that the majority of instructions had “no complexity.” Mexico’s first grade language arts textbooks had significantly more “no complexity” directives than the U.S. textbooks; whereas first grade math textbooks in Mexico had significantly more “moderately complex” directives than in the U.S. The “very complex” directives were minimal in both cultures. Cross-cultural differences were discussed in terms of linguistic transparency, conceptual complexity, item biases, and the education system.