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Many Australian students from poor families decline to take advanced mathematics when they reach senior secondary school, resulting in an under-representation of disadvantaged student groups in the advanced mathematics streams. It is important to promote disadvantaged students’ aspirations for advanced mathematics given the significance of this important subject for future academic and career opportunities. The current study followed a selected group of achieving mathematics students from low SES families (n = 30) for 3 years to understand what motivates them to learn mathematics and whether they aspire for advanced mathematics. Data collection activities spanned over 3 years beginning when the participating students were in year 8. The dataset includes student interviews in year 8 and year 9, students’ survey responses in year 9, teachers’ assessment of students’ likelihood to take advanced mathematics, students’ reported aspirations for advanced mathematics in year 8 and year 9, and their subject choice decisions in year 10. The findings showed that these students, notwithstanding economic disadvantage, were motivated to learn mathematics. Many aspired for advanced mathematics and held multiple reasons for learning mathematics. In contrast, those who did not intend to take advanced mathematics in senior secondary school learnt predominantly with performance considerations. The results are discussed in light of supporting students’ mathematics aspirations from a motivational perspective.


Institute for Learning Sciences and Teacher Education

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Journal Article

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