Recent studies done by German psychologist Reinhard Pekrun and his colleagues show that there is a connection between how students feel about math and how well they perform in math class. Pekrun and his team of researchers followed over three-thousand German students from fifth through ninth grades and surveyed each student at the end of the year to see how they felt about math and whether they felt proud or ashamed of their achievements in mathematics that year. Pekrun then compared the students’ answers to their grades in math that year and discovered that students’ grades in math are linked to their feelings and emotions on the subject. Pekrun also realized that how students felt about math one year impacted their math grades the next.
Pekrun concludes that emotions “have a real impact on students’ performance over time,” but that does not mean that this cycle has to be negative. Students who kept a positive attitude towards math and felt proud of their work had better math grades than those who felt they were simply bad at math and ashamed of their progress. Taking pride in your math grades and accomplishments almost always leads to better grades and positivity. Maybe a little attitude adjustment is all you need to bump that math grade up a letter grade or two.
After reading about Reinhard Pekrun’s study on the impact of someone’s attitude towards math on their math grade, I was curious enough to ask a couple classmates about their feelings about math and their math grades. Junior Caleb Fischer told me that he felt good about math and works hard to keep up his grades, and he usually gets either A’s or high B’s in math class. On the other hand, Sophomore Emma Weiss claims that she never had an interest in math and doesn’t show much enthusiasm in class, which ultimately leads to her getting a worse grade in math than most of her other classes. Just by asking two random students in my classes, I was already able to see how a person’s feelings about math affected their math grades. I also wanted to get a math teacher’s opinion on the subject, so I asked our very own Mrs. Cherry what she thought about the studies done by Pekrun. Mrs. Cherry agreed with the research, saying that “if kids don’t like math or don’t think that they’re any good at math, then they aren’t even going to try.” It’s kind of like an idea is planted in students’ heads that makes them think that if they aren’t good at doing one kind of math problem, then they aren’t good at any kind of math problem. Once students start to approach math with more excitement and willingness, they might be surprised by the effect it has on their grade.