K. Mädamürk1, A. Palu2

1Tallinn University (ESTONIA)
2University of Tartu (ESTONIA)
Estonian students have shown high results in PISA tests over the years, but motivation and interest to learn math is slightly lower than the mean in OECD countries (Jukk, 2013). Since teaching methods may play important role in the motivational indicators of learning, the current study aims to find how motivation and math skills are related with teaching methods and how these relations explain why higher results in math are not necessarily related to higher motivation.

The sample included 20 urban and rural schools, 25 teachers and 450 children (242 boys) from Grades 7 and 8. Children’s math skills and nonverbal reasoning were tested in both years and interest in math, internal and external motivation was assessed in Grade 8. Teachers answered to open-ended questions about the most common errors that their students made in the math test conducted in Grade 7. They had to explain what could be done to prevent students from making these types of errors. According to the responses the teachers were divided into two groups. First, teachers who answered only that students should practice more with this kind of tasks. Second, teachers who additionally said that students should have discussions about the topics and errors. Fourteen teachers with first answer types were categorized as emphasizing teacher-centred teaching methods and eleven teachers with the second answer types as emphasizing learner-centred teaching methods. The students were divided into two groups according to their teachers teaching method.

The results showed that overall the children in both groups had similar results in math skills and nonverbal reasoning, and they showed similar level interest in math, internal and external motivation. As expected, nonverbal reasoning was related with math skills in both groups. However, the groups differed in relations between math skills and motivational indicators. In the teacher-centred teaching methods group children who had higher results in internal motivation had also higher math skills; and children who had higher results in interest in math had higher math skills. In contrast, relations between math skills, interest, and internal motivation were not significant in the group of children who had been taught by teachers with learner-centred methods.

The results indicate that students who have a teacher who emphasizes teacher-centred teaching methods may have to motivate themselves and be more interested in math to have good results, but students who have a teacher with learner-centred teaching methods may show good math skills even if they are not much interested and internally motivated in math learning.

[1] Jukk, H. (2013). Õpilaste tahe ja motivatsioon õppida mtemaatikat. In G. Tire (Ed.), PISA 2012 Eesti tulemused (pp. 48-58). Tallinn: SA Innove.