This paper aims to enhance teachers' understandings of the nature and importance of students' achievement goal orientations in elementary mathematics education. In particular, the study includes a theoretical background about what achievement goal orientation is, and the nature of students' goal orientations. Next, a literature review is provided about the major models identified in goal theory. Then, a discussion is made about why achievement goal orientations are important in mathematics education, supported with the research findings in the literature. Finally, a conclusion is made to summarize the main arguments discussed in the previous parts, with specific suggestions to mathematics teachers. (C) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.