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English Summaries (06/2021)

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Heta Tuominen, Markku Niemivirta, Johan Korhonen, Anna Tapola & Riikka Mononen

Profiles of mathematical skills and motivation among first-grade students

High interest and positive self-concept are often linked to good academic performance, but we still know fairly little about the interplay between and individual differences in interest, self-concept, and math performance in young children. Following a person-oriented approach, the aim of this study was to investigate what kinds of profiles of mathematical skills (i.e., number sense, counting and arithmetic) and motivation (i.e., interest and self-concept) can be identified among children starting school. The participants were 265 Norwegian first-graders (Mage = 6 y 9 mo). Using latent class clustering analysis, four distinct profiles were identified. The largest group (46%) consisted of students who displayed relatively high skills but slightly lower interest than average. In addition, there was a group characterized by relatively high skills and positive motivation (22%) and, in contrast, a group with low skills and negative motivation (21%). Interestingly, a pattern of low skills but positive motivation was also extracted (12%). Validation of the profiles by means of ANOVAs showed that students who had positive math-related motivation, regardless of their math skills, displayed high valuing of both math and school in general. The findings indicate that skills and motivation – especially interest – do not always go hand in hand.

Keywords: mathematical skills, motivation, interest, self-concept, elementary school, person-oriented approach


Tomi Kärki, Jake McMullen, Hilma Halme, Saku Määttä, Erno Lehtinen & Minna Hannula-Sormunen

Towards adaptive rational number knowledge by playing games

Procedural and conceptual knowledge of rational numbers does not guarantee their adaptive application in novel contexts. However, game-based learning environments may be useful for supporting adaptive and flexible mathematical knowledge and skills, especially adaptive number knowledge. The main aim of this research is to assess whether and how NanoRoboMath, a game-based learning environment, can support the acquisition of rational number knowledge. The quasi-experimental design included 174 seventh-grade students. Experimental group students played the NanoRoboMath game during mathematics lessons, while control group students had textbook-based mathematics lessons. Pre- and post-tests were used to mea-sure adaptive rational number knowledge, mental calculation skills, and conceptual knowledge of size, representations, operations and density. The analysis showed that using the NanoRoboMath game yielded higher knowledge in all the aspects of rational number knowledge, except for representational knowledge. Game performance was related to improved adaptive rational number knowledge, mental calculation skills, and understanding of operations. The current study contributes to the understanding of the usefulness of game-based learning environments for the development of mathematical knowledge.

Keywords: rational numbers, game-based learning, adaptive number knowledge


Jonna Pulkkinen & Jenna Hiltunen

The relationship between attitudes, motivation, gender and mathematics proficiency in the Finnish PISA 2018 study

The aim of the study was to determine the relationship between attitudes, motivation, gender and proficiency in mathematics; form student groups based on attitude and motivation variables; and identify how these groups differ. The Finnish 2018 PISA data (= 5,649) were used. Attitudes and motivation were considered by gender and proficiency level. Latent profile analysis was used to group students. Differences among groups were examined through cross-tabulation and χ2 testing. The results showed that, among weak and intermediate performers, boys are more competitive than girls, whereas these girls’ attitudes towards school are more positive, and they demonstrate greater motivation to master tasks. No difference was found in self-efficacy between boys and girls, but the fear of failure was noticeably stronger in girls. On the basis of attitude and motivation variables, three student groups were formed: the weakly motivated (51%), students who feel positive about school (46%), and students who feel negative about school (3%). Girls and high performers represented a significant proportion of the group who felt positive about school, whereas boys and weak performers represented a significant proportion of the other two groups.

Keywords: mathematics, attitudes, motivation, PISA study, gender


Markku Niemivirta, Antti-Tuomas Pulkka, Anna Maria Rawlings, Anna Tapola & Heta Tuominen

Interest and strain in upper-secondary mathematics

Individual differences and the links between motivation and achievement are clearer in mathematics than in other subjects. Mathematics achievement predicts the transition to upper-secondary school, but motivation explains course choices. However, we know only little about the changes in and significance of motivation at the beginning of general upper-secondary studies. In this study, using latent change score modeling, we examined the changes in interest and strain, their mutual connections, and predictions on course grades, during the first three courses in basic and advanced mathematics (= 164), while controlling for previous achievement, subject interest, and gender. Students studying the basic level reported lower interest and higher strain than those study-ing advanced level mathematics. Otherwise, the results were similar in both groups. Strain increased and interest decreased at the beginning of the studies, and interest, strain, and changes in them were correlated. Interest in mathematics predicted course-specific interest positively and strain negatively, while previous achievement only predicted strain negatively. An increase in interest predicted slightly better course performance. The results suggest that interest acts as a buffer against strain, whereas increased strain may undermine interest. An increase in interest also appears to support achievement. Attention should be given to the balance between strain and interest as part of student well-being in general upper-secondary studies.

Keywords: interest, strain, mathematics, achievement