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Motivation, not IQ, behind your liking for maths

Dec 30 2012, 16:41 IST
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SummaryMotivation to work hard and good study techniques, not IQ, leads to better maths skills, a new study has found.

Motivation to work hard and good study techniques, not IQ, leads to better maths skills, a new study has found.

According to researchers, keeping children's heads in the math books by force probably won't help.

The analysis of more than 3,500 German children found those who started out solidly in the middle of the pack in 5th grade could jump to the 63rd percentile by 8th grade if they were very motivated and used effective learning strategies, said lead researcher Kou Murayama, from the University of California Los Angeles.

"The growth in math achievement was predicted by motivation and learning strategies. Given that IQ did not show this kind of effect, we think this is impressive," Murayama said.

Previous studies have shown that math skills emerge in babies and that culture plays a huge role in shaping those skills, 'LiveScience' reported.

Men consistently outperform women on standardised math tests. However, those differences may be due to math anxiety, or cultural influences, studies have shown.

Murayama's team tracked about 3,500 children from Bavaria as they completed an IQ test and an assessment of their algebraic and geometric know-how from grade 5 to 10.

Researchers also gave students surveys that measured intrinsic motivation to work at maths by asking them to rate, on a scale of 1 to 5, how much they agreed with statements like, "I invest a lot of effort in math, because I am interested in the subject."

They also reported how motivated the children were by outside factors like getting good grades. Not surprisingly, at the start of the study, kids with high IQs performed the best at math.

However, in a vindication of exacting "Tiger Moms", effective studying techniques and motivation, not IQ, predicted who had most improved their math skills by 10th grade.

Kids who started out with average maths abilities but were in the top 10 per cent in terms of learning strategies and motivation jumped up by about 13 percentage points over the course of the study in their math abilities, Murayama said.

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