Being competent in mathematics helps us solve problems and develop analytical skills. While the home environment may provide a basis for mathematics development, schools and teachers are vital in this process. We know less about mathematics motivation development, especially in the transition from elementary to middle school. MATHMot investigates the development of mathematics motivation as well as factors affecting this process from an international viewpoint. Though some studies focus on student achievement as the central goal of learning mathematics, MATHMot is built on the assumption that children’s motivation for mathematics learning is equally essential, especially from the long-term perspective.
Across countries, students differ on how much they are interested and competent in mathematics. Thus, MATHMot gathers educational specialists and developmental psychologists from six European countries from North to South, East to West: Norway, Finland, Sweden, Portugal, Estonia, and Serbia. The study is organised as a longitudinal mixed-methods design, which means we collect both quantitative and qualitative data at several time points during the project.
Over the last two years, the project team has been busy developing and improving different measures for students, teachers, and parents. These, for example, include surveys that focus on motivation for mathematics, academic emotions, math identity, practices related to fostering motivation in the classroom and at home, students’ early math experiences, math competence, and so forth. During spring 2021, the project team tested all the instruments across the countries involved in the project. We collected data from students in grades 3 to 5, their teachers, and their parents. Collected data have helped us to improve all the surveys, making them ready for our main study.
In spring 2022, MATHMot started its main investigation. Across the six countries, we involved around 300 schools and over 11 000 students in grades 3 and 4. The survey was also completed with the parents and teachers. We visited the same students in spring 2023.
Currently, the project team collaborates closely with teachers from participating schools and classes to interpret key findings and translate this knowledge into practical tools teachers can use in everyday activities. In this way, the MATHMot project will generate new scientific knowledge and support improving childhood experiences in mathematics in schools. With this combined approach, MATHMot will deepen our understanding of how motivation related to mathematics develops during the transition from elementary to middle school and what relevant classroom practices support the positive development of motivation for learning mathematics.
High competence in mathematics is envisioned as one of the pivotal skills for later performance in life and overall lifelong learning attainment. While student background characteristics (i.e. SES or home learning environment-HLE) have been linked to math competence later in life, contribution of motivational constructs has also been examined. Conversely large scale assessment studies highlight cross-country differences in students’ motivation and confidence towards mathematics. Yet majority of these studies do not offer insight on how students’ motivation develop over time, but are rather cross-sectional in nature. Simultaneously an international viewpoint in longitudinal studies is missing, together with controlling for the effects of the student background characteristics or examining factors at the teacher/classroom level. Taking both an educational and developmental perspective on this topic, MathMot investigates factors affecting development of motivation in mathematics from an international viewpoint. The study will be conducted in grades 3 and 4 (wave 1) and the set of indicators in focus will be captured one year later with the same students, in grades 4 and 5 (wave 2) as to deepen our understanding on how motivation related to mathematics develops. Data will be collected in six European countries in 50 schools (1 classroom per school) sampling around 1000 students per grade in each country, controlling for students’ background characteristics (e.g., gender, SES, HLE), while capturing relevant classroom practice through surveys and later focus groups with the teachers (wave 3). The countries included in the study are Norway, Finland, Sweden, Portugal, Estonia and Serbia. The project will generate new knowledge about the nature and development of motivation in mathematics and its role relative to students’ competence, and will contribute advancing teacher capacities in supporting positive student attributions towards mathematics at an early age.