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Motivation and Math Skills as Determinants of First-Year Performance in Economics


  • Ivo J. M. Arnold
  • Jerry T. Straten


The importance of math skills for study success in economics has been widely researched. This article adds to the literature by combining information on students’ math skills and their motivation. The authors are thus able to present a rich picture of why students succeed in their study of economics and to confirm previous findings that deficient math preparation bodes ill for first-year study success in economics. However, the authors also find that within the population of math-deficient students, motivation matters. Applying factor analysis to a survey of students at Erasmus School of Economics, the authors identify four motivational factors; among these, intrinsic motivation is most strongly related to first-year study success. The authors also show that intrinsic motivation may help to overcome inadequate preparatory math education.

Suggested Citation

  • Ivo J. M. Arnold & Jerry T. Straten, 2012. "Motivation and Math Skills as Determinants of First-Year Performance in Economics," The Journal of Economic Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 43(1), pages 33-47, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:jeduce:v:43:y:2012:i:1:p:33-47
    DOI: 10.1080/00220485.2012.636709

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Luca Stanca, 2006. "The Effects of Attendance on Academic Performance: Panel Data Evidence for Introductory Microeconomics," The Journal of Economic Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 37(3), pages 251-266, July.
    2. Johan N. M. Lagerlöf & Andrew J. Seltzer, 2009. "The Effects of Remedial Mathematics on the Learning of Economics: Evidence from a Natural Experiment," The Journal of Economic Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 40(2), pages 115-137, April.
    3. Richard Sabot & John Wakeman-Linn, 1991. "Determinants of Performance in Introductory Courses in Economics and Seven Other Disciplines," Williams Project on the Economics of Higher Education DP-7, Department of Economics, Williams College.
    4. Kurtis J. Swope & Pamela M. Schmitt, 2006. "The Performance of Economics Graduates over the Entire Curriculum: The Determinants of Success," The Journal of Economic Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 37(4), pages 387-394, October.
    5. Charles L. Ballard & Marianne F. Johnson, 2004. "Basic Math Skills and Performance in an Introductory Economics Class," The Journal of Economic Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 35(1), pages 3-23, January.
    6. Clifford Nowell & Richard M. Alston, 2007. "I Thought I Got an A! Overconfidence Across the Economics Curriculum," The Journal of Economic Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 38(2), pages 131-142, April.
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    Cited by:

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    2. Rémi Le Gall, 2019. "Négocier les règles d’évaluation pour développer l’accompagnement à la réussite des étudiants," Erudite Working Paper 2019-16, Erudite.
    3. Sam Allgood & William B. Walstad & John J. Siegfried, 2015. "Research on Teaching Economics to Undergraduates," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 53(2), pages 285-325, June.
    4. David Sabiston & Ambrose Leung & Gianfranco Terrazzano, 2017. "Learning styles and performance in principles of economics: does the gender gap exist?," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 37(4), pages 2935-2944.
    5. Ivo J. M. Arnold & Wietske Rowaan, 2014. "First-Year Study Success in Economics and Econometrics: The Role of Gender, Motivation, and Math Skills," The Journal of Economic Education, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 45(1), pages 25-35, March.

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