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Children need not be naturally intelligent to acquire Mathematical Skills

Updated on February 11, 2013

Motivation in learning

We have come across many parents lamenting that their children are not good at maths. They need not worry about this any more because researchers at the University of California led by Kou Murayama have found that solving mathematical problems need not completely be linked to natural and inborn intelligence. If children are motivated to do an effective study, they can develop their skills.

According to the study, some element of inborn intelligence may play a role in the initial stages but, when the children reach the high school levels, they can develop their skills by modifying and improving their study habits. In fact, parents and teachers can play a bigger role by motivating and helping them to effect these changes. These findings have also been published in a Journal called "Child Development".

This study was conducted on about 3,500 German students in Bavariain, Germany. Researchers started tracking these students from their fifth grade. Every year, these students were asked to take an examination in maths till they reached their tenth grade. There was an IQ test also. The students were also asked a few questions to test their attitude about mathematics. The intention was to know if the students started believing that achieving maths skills was possible. The researchers also wanted to know if the students worked mathematical problems for the love of the subject or out of compulsion. They asked the students various questions to know their study strategies and also to know whether they just memorized the steps or tried to know new concepts by linking them together.

The results were astonishing. The IQ of the students was not found to be an indication of their skills to learn new concepts. In the initial period of the research when the students were doing their fifth grade, their marks were directly related to their IQ. But later, their skills to learn new concepts were not at all related to their IQ or smartness.

This means that the inborn intelligence of children helps them only in the starting point of their studies. As they grow up, their performance and skills improve proportionate to their hard work, efforts and levels of motivation.

So, if parents and teachers create an interest in the subject in these children and motivate them suitably, they are certain to shine well. On the other hand, those children who adopt rote-learning methods and study only for the sake of getting good grades are not able to absorb or imbibe new concepts.

Therefore, even children who are not very bright in the initial stages can acquire mathematical skills and achieve academic success if they are motivated and if they put in more efforts. They can even be better than those children who are brighter than them because those children may be less motivated.

Schools should recognize the fact that motivation need not be innate and can be imparted. So, they should modify their instructional styles accordingly to improve mathematical skills in children.


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    • dreamdamodar profile image

      Raman Kuppuswamy 5 years ago from Chennai, India

      The myth that only children with inborn intelligence can be good at mathematics has been busted.