• social learning and cognitive theory;
  • math interest;
  • middle school students

The authors examined the central hypothesis that students’ early perceptions of support and sense of engagement in math classes and math activities strongly influence the broadening or narrowing of their math interest. The focus was on the first wave of qualitative data collected from 5th-, 7th-, and 9th-grade students during the 2007–2008 academic year as part of a longitudinal study. Findings indicate the importance of using group work and extrinsic motivation in middle school math classes to broaden interest; peer classroom behavior was often a detractor of math interest.