Interest in Subject Matter: The Mathematics Predicament

  •  Jerome Rotgans    
  •  Henk Schmidt    


The present study sought to explore (a) the extent to which certain school subjects are perceived sui generis more interesting than others and (b) the extent to which students’ interest in a subject is related to their study choices. A mixed-methods approach was chosen in which an individual interest questionnaire and an open-ended question were administered to 4,068 students at a polytechnic in Singapore. Data were analyzed by means of analysis of variance and content analysis of the responses to the open-ended question. The results suggest that mathematics courses were considered least interesting of all school subjects. Moreover, having to complete mathematics courses was responsible for a significant decrease in perceived interest for the entire study program the students were enrolled in. The content analysis revealed that students believe that mathematics is not in itself less interesting but that courses can be improved by providing more adequate learning resources and structure. Implications of these findings are discussed.

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