Genes not the only factor in maths matters

npj Summary: A study revealed mathematical achievement depends on contextual factors and discussed how genetic tools play a role⎮1 min read

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Learning maths is important for students to study at school because it equips individuals with basic skills needed to successfully navigate through life or to progress toward a STEM career. But maths performance varies between students and research articles report either an individual’s genome, socio-economic status, quality of teaching or a combination, influence academic achievement. 

A research team led by Kathryn Paige Harden, from the University of Texas, analysed the official academic transcripts and genetic data collected from 3000 students of European descent who attended secondary school in the United States of America from 1994 to 1995. The team compared the individual student’s mathematical performance with their polygenic scores to assess whether the student’s results were based on school experience or genetic profile. The results of the study indicated the educational outcomes of students did not always reflect the opportunities provided by the school or the student’s DNA. 

For a more detailed discussion, please read Genetic associations with mathematics tracking and persistence in secondary school, a free and open access article published by npj Science of Learning.


Harden, K.P., Domingue, B.W., Belsky, D.W. et al. Genetic associations with mathematics tracking and persistence in secondary school. npj Sci. Learn. 5, 1 (2020).

Gabrielle Ahern

Managing Editor, npj Science of Learning Community

I am based in Queensland, Australia, and have an interesting portfolio of skills, experience and qualifications in science research and content creation.