Study: Motivation, Not IQ, Predicts Math Learning

November 18, 2014

Add this to your list of reasons to ban “I’m not a math person” and similar excuses in your classroom.

A 2012 study shows that for predicting growth in math achievement, motivation and study habits matter more than IQ. The study, “Predicting Long-Term Growth in Students’ Mathematics Achievement: The Unique Contributions of Motivation and Cognitive Strategies,” tracked 3,500 public school students in Germany from fifth grade to tenth grade, analyzing their IQ test scores, standardized math exam scores and survey responses on their attitudes toward math to determine what matters most for growth in math skills.

The students who disproportionately achieved the most were those who agreed with the statements that they had control over their performance, such as “When doing math, the harder I try, the better I perform,” and with statements that indicated a strong intrinsic motivation that math is important to learn for meeting future goals. Students who were extrinsically motivated by grades showed less growth.

Dr. Kou Murayama is a post-doctoral psychology researcher at University of California Los Angeles and lead author of the study published in the journal Child Development. “Students with high IQ have high math achievement and students with low IQ have low math achievement,” Murayama said to TIME Magazine in December 2012. “But IQ does not predict any growth in math achievement. It determines the starting point.”

How do you motivate students? Stay tuned for upcoming blog posts on motivation strategies and extrinsic vs. intrinsic motivation. Share your strategies with us on  Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest.

Share on Facebook0Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedIn0Pin on Pinterest0