An amusing item from CNN:

Kids who are turned off by math often say they don’t enjoy it, they aren’t good at it and they see little point in it. Who knew that could be a formula for success?

The nations with the best scores have the least happy, least confident math students, says a study by the Brookings Institution’s Brown Center on Education Policy.

Countries reporting higher levels of enjoyment and confidence among math students don’t do as well in the subject, the study suggests. The results for the United States hover around the middle of the pack, both in terms of enjoyment and in test scores.

In essence, happiness is overrated, says study author Tom Loveless.

“We might want to focus on the math that kids are learning and just be a little less obsessed with the fact that they have to enjoy every minute of it,” said Loveless, who directs the Brown Center and serves on a presidential advisory panel on math.

The impression I have from the article is that it’s not confidence per se that leads to low math scores. It’s that high confidence among students tends to indicate an insufficiently difficult mathematics program. Students who perform well on standardized tests tend to be ones who went through difficult, rigorous, math programs. And constantly facing difficult math classes tends to lower their confidence.