Mathematics

Study: Student Motivation, Study Strategies Trump IQ for Learning Gains

By Anthony Rebora — December 26, 2012 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A hot new research study out of Germany finds that, when it comes to student growth in mathematics, motivation and effective study skills are more important than sheer intelligence.

The study, published in the journal Child Development, monitored the progress of some 3500 German students from 5th through 10th grade. In addition to giving them an IQ test and tracking their scores on annual standardized math exams, the researchers kept tabs on the students’ attitudes towards math and their study methods.

In the end, the study found that the students’ intelligence level was closely linked with initial competency in math, but (after controlling for demographics) not with growth or new learning in the subject. What mattered there was diligence and study strategies based on conceptual understanding.

A Time story recaps:

So the children who improved in math over the years were disproportionately those who said they "agreed" or "strongly agreed" with statements such as, "When doing math, the harder I try, the better I perform," or "I invest a lot of effort in math, because I am interested in the subject"- even if they had not started out as high-achieving students. In contrast, kids who said they were motivated purely by the desire to get good grades saw no greater improvement over the average. As for study strategies, those who said they tried to forge connections between mathematical ideas typically improved faster than kids who employed more cursory rote-learning techniques.

English teacher Larry Ferlazzo, who highlights the study as perhaps the most important of the year for educators, digs deeper:

A quick summary is that, though extrinsic motivation and "surface learning" (such as memorization) might result in short-term gains in assessments, they actually hurt long-term (five-year) academic growth. The development of student intrinsic motivation, "deep learning strategies" (requiring "elaboration" and connections to other knowledge -- I think that might correspond to the idea of "transfer"), and students feeling that they had more of a sense of control (though this last quality had a less consistent effect -- it seemed to depend on grade level) of their learning were the main ingredients necessary for increased academic growth

The lead researcher for the study, Kou Murayama, who is now at the University of California Los Angeles, believes the findings could be a source of inspiration and development for schools. “Our study suggests that students’ competencies to learn in math involve factors that can be nurtured by education,” he said.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attendance Awareness Month: The Research Behind Effective Interventions
More than a year has passed since American schools were abruptly closed to halt the spread of COVID-19. Many children have been out of regular school for most, or even all, of that time. Some
Content provided by AllHere
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Mathematics Opinion Q&A Collections: Math Instruction
Nearly 100 math educators answer 10 years of questions!
5 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
Mathematics Opinion 'Beware of Teaching Math Vocabulary Out of Context!'
Three educators share their favorite math instructional strategies, including 'Turn & Talk to Your Neighbor.'
11 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
Mathematics Opinion Four Teacher-Recommended Instructional Strategies for Math
Four teachers share their favorite strategies for math instruction, including the Concrete Representational Abstract approach.
10 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
Mathematics Opinion What It Takes to Actually Improve Math Education
Barry Garelick, a veteran math teacher and author, shares three reform trends that he sees contributing to problems in math education.
6 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty