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When it comes to learning math, intelligence counts at the outset. But after that it’s a matter of motivation and study skills.

That’s the result of a German study of 3,530 Bavarian students in grades 5 through 10 (roughly corresponding to the same grades in the United States). Researchers examined six years of data with an eye toward establishing the effect of IQ, motivation and study skills on growth in math achievement.

Intelligence, it turned out, wasn’t a factor in this growth. But feelings of control, high motivation and study skills involving explaining, summarizing and connecting math to other material did predict greater achievement. To the researchers, the findings are a sign that what it takes to learn math can be fostered by education.