A complex equation!


Children’s interest and sense of confidence in maths is generally quite high when they begin school, but drops off in the first three years according to a new study from Finland.

The researchers followed nearly 300 children for three years and found that, although there were no gender differences in school beginners’ motivation and competence, at the end of the follow-up, girls’ motivation had, on average, declined more than that of boys.

The study, conducted by Motivation, Learning and Well-being research collective MoLeWe shows that children are able to self-assess their motivation for maths rather accurately already when beginning school.

‘It is only natural that children are more interested in things they feel good at. And vice versa, they may do better in something they’re interested in,’ comments lead researcher Professor Markku Niemivirta of the University of Eastern Finland.

Although the negative change observed in the study may partly reflect children’s more realistic self-assessment over time, the researchers suspect that a factor may be maths gradually getting more difficult, and a growing emphasis being placed on performance. ‘It’s important to develop teaching practices that support and maintain children’s interest in maths and strengthen their experiences of success,’ says Professor Niemivirta.

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