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Enjoyment and engagement 'key to improved performance in maths'

21/02/2017 Joanna

Children who enjoy being taught mathematics are considerably more likely to achieve better results in the subject, according to a new study.

Conducted by an international team of researchers led by the University of Munich, the study assessed 3,425 German secondary school students from grades 5 to 9 to assess how their emotions influenced their levels of achievement in maths over the years.

It was shown that although those with higher basic intelligence generally achieved better grades and test scores, those who also enjoyed and took pride in their maths performance scored even better results. By contrast, students who experienced anger, anxiety, shame, boredom or hopelessness in relation to their maths skills had lower achievement levels.

Emotions were shown to influence achievement even after taking into account the effects of variables such as gender and socioeconomic status. Although previous studies have indicated that emotions and academic achievement are correlated, this is the first to show that emotions influence adolescent achievement over and above the effects of general cognitive ability and prior accomplishments, with the effect developing over time.

Study co-author Stephanie Lichtenfeld, a senior lecturer at the University of Munich, said: "Successful performance in maths increased students' positive emotions and decreased their negative emotions over the years.

"In contrast, students with poor grades and test scores suffered from a decline in positive emotions and an increase in negative emotions, such as maths anxiety and maths boredom. Thus, these students become caught in a downward spiral of negative emotion and poor achievement."

The researchers concluded that teachers and parents should therefore look to emphasise positive emotions and minimise negative feeling related to school subjects in order to help them gain a greater sense of control over their performance. Providing students with opportunities to experience success can be a an effective way of bolstering their attainment levels in the long term.

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