The nations with the best scores have the least happy, least confident math students, says a study by the Brookings Institution’s Brown Center on Education Policy.
Countries reporting higher levels of enjoyment and confidence among math students don’t do as well in the subject, the study suggests. The results for the United States hover around the middle of the pack, both in terms of enjoyment and in test scores.
Study author Tom Loveless says, “We might want to focus on the math that kids are learning and just be a little less obsessed with the fact that they have to enjoy every minute of it.”
In high-performing countries, students lack confidence in their abilities because they’re working to meet higher expectations than in low-performing countries. However, the best students in each country are more confident than the weaker students.
The study also knocked efforts to make math “relevant,” AP reports. “Nations that try to teach math in terms of daily life have the lowest test scores.”
Loveless analyzed the 2003 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, a test of fourth-graders and eighth-graders.
The eighth-grade results reflected a common pattern: The 10 nations whose students enjoyed math the most all scored below average. The bottom 10 nations on the enjoyment scale all excelled.
Japan, Hong Kong and the Netherlands were among those with high scores and lower enjoyment or confidence among students.
Update: Five out of four U.S. teachers say the study is wrong, reports Scrappleface.
In a sort-of-related post on EdWize, Leo Casey takes on anti-homework guru Alfie Kohn (who knocks the math esteem study in this Washington Post story) and argues that students won’t learn if school is all play and no work.
. . . Kohn’s polarized dualism of creative, imaginative, self-directed play, on the one side, and alienated, oppressive and thoughtless work, on the other side, excludes the middle term which is the actual ground of education – meaningful, purposeful intellectual labor.
Via The Quick and the Ed.