Excelling In Math Linked To Motivation And Study Habits, Not IQ Study Finds

The excuse that one is just not good at math is no longer valid. A new study finds that motivation to work hard coupled with good studying techniques leads to better math skills, not a high IQ.

Psychologists tracked 3,500 German children who attended public schools. The students ranged between fifth and tenth grade. Each student was given an annual standardized math test each year along with an IQ test and were asked about their attitudes toward math.

What psychologists were most interested in was students belief that math achievement was in their control and whether they were interested in math for its own sake or just for a grade. They also looked at specific studying strategies such as linking concepts together when learning new material or just memorizing the steps to the problems.

Researchers found that when the students were motivated to learn and were using effective learning strategies the ones who started out in the middle of group in 5th grade could jump to the 63rd percentile by the 8th grade. IQ did not predict how likely a child was to pick up new concepts or acquiring new skills. Although the children with higher IQs had higher test scores during the start of the study, it was not related to how much new material the child learned over the years.

According to Live Science, Kou Murayama, a post-doctoral psychology researcher at University of California Los Angeles and lead author of the study said, “It’s not how smart we are; it’s how motivated we are and how effectively we study that determines growth in math achievement over time.”

The children who improved in math were disproportionately those who “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” The children that said they were only motivated purely by the desire to get good grades saw no greater improvement over the average. The study also found that the children who tried to connect math ideas improved faster according to Time Health and Family.