Berlin: Children who enjoy studying mathematics and take pride in good scores are more likely to have higher academic achievements, say scientists who found
that positive emotions and success at learning in math mutually reinforce each other.
Scientists found that students' learning and cognitive performance can be influenced by emotional reactions to learning, like enjoyment, anxiety and boredom. Researchers Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitat (LMU) in Munich in Germany studied how students' emotions in a school context relate to their achievement.
The study focused on achievement in math, which is not only important for education and economic productivity but is also known to prompt strong emotional reactions in students. "We found that emotions influenced students' math achievement over the years," said Reinhard Pekrun, professor at LMU Munich and Australian Catholic University.
"Students with higher intelligence had better grades and test scores, but those who also enjoyed and took pride in math had even better achievement," said Pekrun, who led the study. "Students who experienced anger, anxiety, shame, boredom, or hopelessness had lower achievement," he said.
The research was conducted as part of the Project for the Analysis of Learning and Achievement in Mathematics (PALMA). It included annual assessments of emotions and achievement in math in 3,425 students from grades five through nine. Students' self-reported emotions were measured by questionnaires, and their achievement was assessed by year-end grades and scores on a math achievement test.
The study also found that achievement affected students' emotions over time.
"Successful performance in math increased students' positive emotions and decreased their negative emotions over the years," said Stephanie Lichtenfeld, from LMU.
"In contrast, students with poor grades and test scores suffered from a decline in positive emotions and an increase in negative emotions, such as math anxiety and math boredom," said Lichtenfeld. "Thus, these students become caught in a downward spiral of negative emotion and poor achievement," she said.
The findings that emotions influenced achievement held constant even after taking into account the effects of other variables, including students' intelligence and gender, and families' socioeconomic status. The results are consistent with previous studies showing that emotions and academic achievement are correlated, but they go beyond these by disentangling the directional effects underlying this link.
Specifically, the research suggests that emotions influence adolescents' achievement over and above the effects of general cognitive ability and prior accomplishments....