Motivation for learning

While some element of math achievement may be linked to natural inborn intelligence, when it comes to developing skills during high motivation for learning, motivation and math study habits are much more important than IQ, according to a new study. Kou Murayama, a post-doctoral psychology researcher at University of California Los Angeles and lead author of the study published in the journal Child Development. Murayama and his colleagues studied math achievement among roughly 3,500 public school students living in the German state of Bavariain.

The kids were also given an IQ test, and asked about their attitudes toward math. In particular, the psychologists were interested in how much the adolescents believed that math achievement was something within their control, and whether the kids were interested in math for its own sake. They also asked the students about study strategies, such as whether they would try to link concepts together when learning new material, or simply try to memorize the steps to typical problems. To their surprise, the researches found that IQ does not predict new learning — in other words, intelligence as measured by the IQ test does not indicate how likely students are to pick up new concepts or accumulate new skills.

While children with higher IQs did have higher test scores from the beginning of the study, how much new material the kids learned over the years was not related to how smart they were, at least not once demographic factors were taken into account. But IQ does not predict any growth in math achievement. In contrast, kids who said they were motivated purely by the desire to get good grades saw no greater improvement over the average. While not entirely surprising — it makes sense that more motivated students would do better and that those who put in more effort to learn would see better results — the findings provide reassuring confirmation that academic success is not governed by a student’s cognitive abilities alone. Instead, students who want to learn math and who work at it may find they make faster gains and learn better than students who are bright but less motivated. That’s encouraging not just for students, but for schools as well, says Murayama.

He notes that it’s not clear how generalizable the results from the German school system are to other nations, but he is intrigued enough by the results to investigate different instructional styles that teachers and parents may use to inspire kids to learn. A 6-Year-Old Boy Becomes a Girl: Do Schools Need New Rules for Transgender Students? Motivation is the reason for people’s actions, desires, and needs. Motivation is also one’s direction to behavior, or what causes a person to want to repeat a behavior.

An individual is not motivated by another individual. Motivation comes from within the individual. Motivation as a desire to perform an action is usually defined as having two parts, directional such as directed towards a positive stimulus or away from a negative one, as well as the activated “seeking phase” and consummatory “liking phase”. Motivation can be conceived of as a cycle in which thoughts influence behaviors, behaviors drive performance, performance affects thoughts, and the cycle begins again. Each stage of the cycle is composed of many dimensions including attitudes, beliefs, intentions, effort, and withdrawal which can all affect the motivation that an individual experiences. The natural system assumes that people have higher order needs, which contrasts with the rational theory that suggests people dislike work and only respond to rewards and punishment. Physiological needs are the lowest and most important level.