Students’ experience of math is affected by the group’s level of knowledge

Students' experience of math is affected by the group's level of knowledge

Mathematics groups divided by achievement ability can affect individual students’ experience of mathematics in school.

Students’ experience of mathematics affected by the composition of the group and its average level of knowledge. This is shown by a Finnish study in which just over 1,300 students aged 14-15 were included.

The researchers have in the study started from the so-called “Big fish little pond” effect to investigate how students’ feeling towards mathematics is compared with the group’s ability.

According to the study, the effect is special clear in students who feel they are at a lower level than the rest of the group when they go to a high-performing mathematics class. For those students, the feeling of shame is clearer than the feeling of pride in the students who feel they are at a higher level than the group.

Boys were also found to experience more shame in high-performing math groups than girls, something that researchers believe may be due to the fact that mathematics is often perceived as a male subject.

Researchers believe that individual goals can be a solution to reduce the comparative effect.

Reference: Marja Eliisa Holm, Johan Korhonen, Anu Laine, Piia Maria Björn, Markku Sakari Hannula. “Big-fish-little-pond effect on achievement emotions in relation to mathematics performance and gender”. International Journal of Educational Research, 2020. DOI:






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