Is motivation the key? Factors impacting performance in first year service mathematics modules

Maryna Lishchynska 1 * , Catherine Palmer 1, Seán Lacey 2, Declan O’Connor 1
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1 Department of Mathematics, Munster Technological University, Cork, IRELAND
2 Research Integrity & Compliance Officer, Munster Technological University, Cork, IRELAND
* Corresponding Author
EUR J SCI MATH ED, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp. 146-166.
Published Online: 14 October 2022, Published: 01 January 2023
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Taught to non-mathematics undergraduates (business, science, engineering, and other technical programs), service mathematics is commonly associated with poor exam performance and low skill/knowledge attainment. The primary objective of the present study was to examine the range of factors thought to impact mathematics performance in higher education and establish which of the variables (i.e., motivation, mathematical background, growth mindset, preference for understanding, and time invested in independent learning) are of value in explaining the differences in students’ performance in service mathematics modules. A survey of first year business and engineering students who sat service mathematics modules was conducted. A multivariable proportional odds regression model was applied to detect and evaluate the association of each explanatory variable with mathematics performance. Motivation was found to be an important contributor to mathematics performance in first year service modules (p£0.05), second only to mathematical background (p<0.001). The work also investigated trends in motivation for studying mathematics across different student cohorts, where a significant difference in motivation was found between business and engineering students (p<0.001). The findings are discussed in terms of implications for learners and educators and should be of interest to fellow academics, those tasked with improving retention rates and policy makers.


Lishchynska, M., Palmer, C., Lacey, S., & O’Connor, D. (2023). Is motivation the key? Factors impacting performance in first year service mathematics modules. European Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 11(1), 146-166.


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