Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Committee Member

Mark H. Ashcraft

Second Committee Member

David E. Copeland

Third Committee Member

Colleen M. Parks

Fourth Committee Member

Carryn Warren

Number of Pages



The social-cognitive model of motivation states that students adopt a theory of the nature of intelligence that guides their goals in academia and their responses to academic setbacks. Students who believe intelligence is an unchanging entity within them are more likely to adopt goals to display high ability, hide low ability, and respond helplessly to failed schoolwork. Conversely, a student who believes intelligence is a measure of effort and persistence will be motivated to gather knowledge and acquire new skills. The current study investigated the role theories of intelligence play in the field of mathematics understanding. In two experiments, participants either taught themselves or were explicitly taught how to solve a novel math task. It was hypothesized that participants who believe intelligence is a malleable trait (i.e., based on effort) would engage more in teaching themselves the correct solution and experience fewer attitude-related cognitive disruptions during a test of the new math procedure. However, attitudes from the social-cognitive model of motivation were only found to influence behavior and test performance when analyses also included the influence of an effect similar to a stereotype threat among female participants. Although not all hypotheses and goals of the thesis were confirmed, results could help develop research that explains the cognitive mechanisms of mathematics anxiety and threats to stereotype within the field of mathematics cognition.


Educational psychology; Intellect; Learning; Psychology of; Mathematics – Study and teaching; Motivation (Psychology); School psychology


Biological Psychology | Cognitive Psychology | Educational Psychology | Experimental Analysis of Behavior

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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