Educational Studies in Mathematics

, Volume 97, Issue 3, pp 235–254 | Cite as

Exploring intrinsic and extrinsic motivational aspects of middle school students’ aspirations for their mathematics learning

  • Karina J. WilkieEmail author
  • Peter Sullivan


Middle school students have been pervasively described in the research literature as exhibiting disaffection, disengagement, and a lack of interest in mathematics classrooms. This study investigated this notion empirically using students’ own voice on their wishes for mathematics learning to see if they characterise themselves in this way in their self-reports. Over 3500 Australian middle school students responded to a free-format prompt and reported diverse but overwhelmingly positive aspirations related to intrinsic motivational features inherent in their disposition and to extrinsic factors in their environment, such as the learning context and activities provided. Evidence of all four goal orientations was found in the students’ responses but most noticeably for the productive mastery-approach orientation. When these students described what they wish for in their mathematics classrooms, they mentioned challenging work, interesting work, and opportunities to collaborate.


Motivation Wishes Affect Goal orientations Achievement Middle school mathematics 



We acknowledge with appreciation the student participants from the Encouraging Persistence, Maintaining Challenge project, funded by an Australian Research Council Discovery Project Grant (DP110101027), who contributed to the study on which this article is based. We thank Daya Weerasinghe for his contribution to the data analysis.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Senior Lecturer, Mathematics EducationMonash University, MelbourneFrankstonAustralia
  2. 2.Faculty of EducationMonash UniversityClaytonAustralia

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