It's not how smart you are but how hard you try that determines how well you do on a math test.
A new study published in the journal Child Development reveals that while natural intelligence is important in the early stages of a person's mathematical competence, it is motivation and study skills that ultimately determine a person's math skills.
"While intelligence as assessed by IQ tests is important in the early stages of developing mathematical competence, motivation and study skills play a more important role in students' subsequent growth," Kou Murayama, a postdoctoral researcher of psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles, said in a statement.
Researchers examined six annual waves of data from a German longitudinal study that analyzed the math ability of 3,520 5th to 10th grade students and combined the students' motivation, study skills, and intelligence to predict the long-term growth in the students' math achievement over a period of five years.
They found that while intelligence was strongly correlated to a student's math achievement, cleverness could only predict the children's initial development of competence in the subject.
However, the study revealed that sheer will and study habits were among the ultimate factors in determining a child's learning curve or their ability to learn more mathematical concepts.
Researchers found that students who felt competent, motivated, and who used their other skills to summarize, explain and make connections to other materials and avoided rote learning or pure memorization to study demonstrated more improvement in math achievement than those who didn't.
In contrast, researchers found no link between students' natural intelligence, determined by IQ score, to improvements in math skill.
"Our study suggests that students' competencies to learn in math involve factors that can be nurtured by education," Murayama explained in a statement. "Educational programs focusing on students' motivation and study skills could be an important way to advance their competency in math as well as in other subjects."