Many studies have put effort in intervening an approach to promote and develop students’ interest in mathematics learning. The IDC theory suggests that students can be nurtured as creators after they have engaged in interest-driven learning activities regularly with technology support (Chan et al., 2018). There are three anchored concepts in the IDC theory, namely, interest, creation, and habit, whereas each of them will go through to a continuum learning activity that subsequently forms a loop (Chan et al., 2018).

Firstly, the interest loop comprises three coherent components which are triggering interest, immersing interest, and extending interest (Wong, Chan, Chen, King, & Wong, 2015). In the IDC theory, stimulating curiosity is one of the processes in triggering situational interest; however, presenting attractive learning subject matters is inadequate for this purpose. To provoke situational interest, teachers or instructional designers should scaffold knowledge deficit, which subsequently can help students be immersed or fully engaged in the learning process by providing optimum levels of challenging learning tasks. As for the final component in the interest loop, it explains that utility implications of the learning content are crucial for sustaining students’ interest (Wong et al., 2015). In relation to mathematics learning, students’ interest can be promoted by firstly presenting a mathematical problem that is able to provoke and confront students’ prior knowledge, and scaffold students to tackle challenges that help students gain successful experiences and finally present the practical value of the learning content.

Next in the creation loop, there are three components which are imitating, combining, and staging (Chan et al., 2018). According to Chan, Looi, and Chang (2015), the early stage of learning process includes imitation from a model, as an attempt to understand the model’s ideas, methods, or ways of doing things. Then, students will choose what to retain or remove, and come up with their own interpretation or ideas as a result of ‘combination’. To complete the creation process, students should be provided with a platform to present their product (Chan et al., 2015). In the context of mathematics learning, the creation loop can be operationalised as simply as a mathematics problem-solving situation in a classroom. Mathematics teachers usually demonstrate a step-by-step method to approach a mathematics question, and in return, students are asked to imitate the process for a similar question. When students are able to solve the question on their own, it can be known as a completed ‘combination’ process as they have acquired the skills and knowledge to answer a mathematics question. Staging can be as straightforward as showing their working solution on the board in the classroom to their peers.

Finally, the habit loop consists of three components: cueing environment, routine, and satisfaction (Chen et al., 2015). In the view of the IDC theory, it is important and possible to develop a positive learning habit to nurture a lifelong interest-driven creator (Chen et al., 2015). Although the habit formation process takes time and is highly related to students’ affective characteristics and cognitive behaviours, teachers should begin with easy and simple habits; therefore, it comes down to the question of what is the learning habit teachers would like students to form (Chen et al., 2015). Regarding learning mathematics, there are a few fundamental and important learning habits like memorisation of the multiplication table, the accurate and systematic way of writing mathematics equation, or an analytic approach in solving mathematics questions. In the process of developing students’ interest towards mathematics, it is inevitable that students are required to be innately involved in solving a mathematics problem regularly, and that is when habits comes into play, to help them be comfortable, familiar, and most importantly, answer a mathematics question correctly as guided by the teacher. In the long term, as conceptualised in the IDC theory, students’ satisfaction towards learning can be increased with increasing successful experiences (Chan et al., 2018; Chen et al., 2015).

When taken together, from the IDC theory perspective, nurturing interest in learning mathematics includes provoking students’ interest with scaffolding mathematics problems, guiding students to tackle the challenges, providing utility value of the learning content, enabling students to imitate the approach of solving a mathematics question, allowing them to answer on their own and presenting it to teacher or peers, and lastly, guiding students to form fundamental habit in arithmetic learning process in every step of the way. It would be reasonable to assume that the aforesaid discussion provides a glimpse of how the IDC theory can be applied to guide the design of learning activities in mathematics. The potential of the IDC theory is far-reaching but more studies need to be carried out to validate its application in the learning context across various disciplines.

It is believed that interest has a vital role in students’ learning performance (Gilbert, 2016; Heinze et al., 2005; Kpolovie et al., 2014; Sauer, 2012). However, interest may not be a direct predictor of mathematics performance (Yu & Singh, 2016) and may not significantly relate to Malaysian students’ mathematics performance after factoring in the results from PISA 2012 (Thien & Ong, 2015). Therefore, this preliminary study leveraged on the IDC theory to understand more about the relationship between interest and students’ mathematics performance in the Malaysian context.