A new study finds that intelligence is not the key factor in how a student gains math skills.
The new study, found in the journal Child Development, suggests motivation and study habits are the key factors in math achievement.
The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Munich and the University of Bielefeld.
“While intelligence as assessed by IQ tests is important in the early stages of developing mathematical competence, motivation and study skills play a more important role in students’ subsequent growth,” according to researcher Kou Murayama, Ph.D.
Murayama and colleagues looked at six annual waves of data from a German longitudinal study assessing math ability in 3,520 students in grades 5 to 10.
They investigated how students’ motivation, study skills, and intelligence jointly predicted long-term growth in their math achievement over five years. Intelligence was strongly linked to students’ math achievement, but only in the initial development of competence in the subject.
Motivation and study skills turned out to be more important factors in terms of students’ growth (their learning curve or ability to learn) in math.
Memory work, or rote learning, was not a factor for math success. Factors that were associated with math achievement included: students who felt competent; were intrinsically motivated; used skills like summarizing, explaining, and making connections to other materials; and avoided rote learning.
In contrast, students’ intelligence had no relation to growth in math achievement.
“Our study suggests that students’ competencies to learn in math involve factors that can be nurtured by education,” said Murayama. “Educational programs focusing on students’ motivation and study skills could be an important way to advance their competency in math as well as in other subjects.”