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Student's attitudes toward math : a study of the various factors which influence a student's attitude toward math

1 June 1997


The purpose of this qualitative study was to answer several research questions: 1)What factors are involved in the development of a student's attitude toward mathematics?; 2) How do these factors influence the student's attitude toward mathematics?; and 3) Which factors are most responsible for the student's attitude toward mathematics? My research addressing these questions of a student's attitude toward mathematics was based on the work of many researchers including Allen Wigfield (1983, 1990), Judith Meese (1979, 1990), Jacquelynne Parsons (Eccles) (1979, 1990), V.C. Crandall (1969) and Ric Brown. Wigfield's theory proposes that parents' own achievement beliefs concerning mathematics and their background in math are not related to children's beliefs. In contrast, however, Crandall et. aI, found that parent's own beliefs, values, and perceptions of mathematics can, and do, influence their children's beliefs, values, and perceptions of mathematics. Wigfield, Meese, and Eccles theory proposes that math anxiety is most directly related to students' math ability perceptions, performance expectations, and value perceptions. Wigfield, Meese, and Eccles also maintain a theory which proposes teachers often treat students for whom they have high expectancies differently than those for whom they have low expectancies, and that those differences are subsequently related to student's achievement. Brown's theory proposes that attitude toward mathematics is a two dimensional phenomenon - one of enjoyment and the other of fear. This study took place at a rural high school located on the coast of the Pacific Northwest. The participants were principally freshman and sophomore students, their parents, and the math teachers at the high school. Information was gathered using parent and student surveys, and taped interviews with students and teachers. In order to protect the participants' rights to privacy and anonymity I have provided pseudonyms for all participants in this study. After collecting and organizing extensive survey and interview responses, it has become apparent that, indeed, many factors do contribute to the student's attitude toward math. My research revealed that parents do influence their children, however the correlation is not always positive. Whereas, as my data revealed, the student's own self concept is also a considerable force in the development of their attitude toward math. It is clear that the successes and failures that a student experiences in her or his math career, as well as the student's own impression of mathematics - either developed from experience impressed from external forces - play critically important roles in the development of the student's attitude toward math. This research investigates the many and various factors which affect a student's attitude toward mathematics. My research uncovers additional information which supports and adds to the works by Wigfield, Meese, Parsons, and Eccles.


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