How grade levels shape underperforming elementary student preferences about learning mathematics in the classroom

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There is evidence that student attitudes towards mathematics become more negative as students move through their schooling. However, less is known about the different factors that shape student attitudes at various stages. This qualitative study sought to shed light on this issue and consider how stage of schooling influenced self-perceived supports for what helped underperforming students to learn mathematics. One hundred and seventy-nine students in Grades 2/3 and 5/6 completed a questionnaire before they participated in a mathematics intervention program, targeting students who had fallen behind in mathematics. Participating students were asked to complete the sentence stem. The best thing about learning mathematics in my classroom is … and answered the question: What helps you learn mathematics in the classroom? Thematic analysis revealed that the majority of younger students emphasized specific tasks (e.g. games) and mathematical content areas (e.g. counting) when describing the best thing about learning mathematics at school and were twice as likely to highlight such aspects compared with older students. By contrast, older students were far more likely to indicate the importance of being supported directly by their teacher or peers when learning mathematics, compared with younger students.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1380-1392
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • classroom environment
  • education
  • elementary
  • Mathematics
  • primary
  • student preferences

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