Life Science Majors' Math-Biology Task Values Relate to Student Characteristics and Predict the Likelihood of Taking Quantitative Biology Courses.

Academic Article


  • Expectancy-value theory of achievement motivation predicts that students' task values, which include their interest in and enjoyment of a task, their perceptions of the usefulness of a task (utility value), and their perceptions of the costs of engaging in the task (e.g., extra effort, anxiety), influence their achievement and academic-related choices. Further, these task values are theorized to be informed by students' sociocultural background. Although biology students are often considered to be math-averse, there is little empirical evidence of students' values of mathematics in the context of biology (math-biology task values). To fill this gap in knowledge, we sought to determine 1) life science majors' math-biology task values, 2) how math-biology task values differ according to students' sociocultural background, and 3) whether math-biology task values predict students' likelihood of taking quantitative biology courses. We surveyed life science majors about their likelihood of choosing to take quantitative biology courses and their interest in using mathematics to understand biology, the utility value of mathematics for their life science career, and the cost of doing mathematics in biology courses. Students on average reported some cost associated with doing mathematics in biology; however, they also reported high utility value and were more interested in using mathematics to understand biology than previously believed. Women and first-generation students reported more negative math-biology task values than men and continuing-generation students. Finally, students' math-biology task values predicted their likelihood of taking biomodeling and biostatistics courses. Instructional strategies promoting positive math-biology task values could be particularly beneficial for women and first-generation students, increasing the likelihood that students would choose to take advanced quantitative biology courses.
  • Authors

  • Andrews, Sarah E
  • Aikens, Melissa
  • Publication Date

  • 2018
  • Keywords

  • Basic Behavioral and Social Science
  • Behavioral and Social Science
  • Clinical Research
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)


  • 19
  • Issue

  • 2