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Children’s attitudes towards maths deteriorate as they get older

13 September 2018

Students rate themselves as worse at maths and are increasingly unhappy when they fail at the subject.

That is according to research by Dr Ann Dowker from the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford that is being presented at the British Psychological Society’s Developmental Psychology Section annual conference in Liverpool today.

A total of 216 students from four age groups – years two, six, nine and twelve – at schools in Richmond-upon-Thames were asked for their thoughts on maths as a subject, to rate their own performance, and their feelings when they failed at it.

The researchers found that, as they worked with older year groups, students became more likely to rate themselves as worse at maths, and were more frustrated by failure.

Self-rating of performance was also a predictor of actual maths performance, an effect that was seen in both younger and older students.

Lead researcher Dr Ann Dowker said:

“Research in this area has consistently suggested that performance in maths depends on attitudes towards it rather than just intellectual ability and quality of teaching.

“Our work has built on this by showing that these attitudes appear to deteriorate as students move through the education system – it would now be beneficial to conduct a longitudinal study on the same pupils as they move from primary to secondary school.”

You can explore more about the Development Psychology Section annual conference on #Dev2018.

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