Math skill, teachers quality, computer games and academic performance

Most parents wonder whether their kids math skill at primary and secondary school predicts their success in later grades and careers. Researchers conducted different surveys to corroborate this association or lack thereof. Arnold, I. J., & Straiten, J. T. (2012) have found out motivation and math skills in secondary school (year 12-16) determine student’s success in their first-year economics programs. This study was conducted in the Netherlands using factor analysis based on a survey of students at Erasmus School of Economics. However, they have also figured out an interesting finding that intrinsic motivation of students is as important as math skills for success for those students who have less skill in math.   

On the other hand, Belfield, C., Britton, et al (2019) have shown studying economics or medicine, which requires a high level of number literacy appears to increase earnings by more than 20 percent for men compared to students who studied creative arts, English, or philosophy, which demands low math skill. The difference has been found bigger for women with their earnings increased by around 60 percent than their counterparts who studied less quantitative skills. However, these studies forgot the impact of idiosyncratic factor which is the cognitive ability of each individual student, and teacher’s quality and experience. In this regards, Rockoff, J. E. (2004) have shown a one-standard-deviation increase in teacher quality raises test scores by approximately 0.1 standard deviations in reading and math showing the impact of individual teachers quality on students’ achievement in addition to their math skill.

Many parents are worried about the impact of computer games on students’ math achievement. To find out this dilemma Kim, S., & Chang, M. (2010) have empirically examined the effect of playing computer games on math achievements of 4th-grade students focusing on gender and language minority groups. Using 170,000 U.S 4th grade students found out English-speaking students who played computer math games showed significantly lower math achievement than those who never played. On the other hand, they have gotten positive effects of daily computer use among male students whose first language was other than English. Male language minority students who daily played computer games in math demonstrated higher math performance scores compared with their male English-speaking counterparts who never played. However, they found no significant difference in math skills between minority languages English-speaking female students.

 Finally, Larry Terrazzo  has shared  the following  instruction approaches of the known educators  that  help  raise teacher quality and   students achievement by implication.    


Arnold, I. J., & Straten, J. T. (2012). Motivation and math skills as determinants of first-year performance in economics. The Journal of Economic Education43(1), 33-47.

Belfield, C., Britton, J., Buscha, F., Dearden, L., Dickson, M., Van der Erve, L., … & Zhu, Y. (2019). The impact of undergraduate degrees on early-career earnings: Research report: November 2018.

Kim, S., & Chang, M. (2010). Computer games for the math achievement of diverse students. Journal of Educational Technology & Society13(3), 224-232.

Rockoff, J. E. (2004). The impact of individual teachers on student achievement: Evidence from panel data. American economic review94(2), 247-252.

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