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Thursday, November 27th, 2014

Math Skills More About Motivation Than IQ

Looks like Tiger Mom had it half-right: Motivation to work hard and good study techniques, not IQ, lead to better math skills, a new study shows.

But there’s a catch: The findings, published this month in the journal Child Development, show that 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 author Kou Murayama, a psychology researcher at the University of California Los Angeles.

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

Math on the brain

Just how innate math skills are is a controversial question. Some studies show that math skills emerge in babies, while others show that culture plays a huge role in shaping those skills.

For instance, men consistently outperform women on standardized math tests. But those differences may be due to math anxiety, or cultural influences, other studies have shown.

And in opinion surveys, people in Eastern countries often rate effort as most important to math ability, while Westerners typically say math ability is inborn.

Major improvements

To find out which factor was more important, 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 5th grade to 10th grade…

Read More: Tia Ghose, livescience.com

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