Secondary Students' Attitudes towards Mathematics

By Asante, K Oppong | Ife Psychologia, March 2012 | Go to article overview

Secondary Students' Attitudes towards Mathematics


Asante, K Oppong, Ife Psychologia


Abstract

Attitudes towards mathematics and associated anxiety have been known to plague students with diverse socio-economic backgrounds. The purpose of this study was to investigate senior high student's attitudes towards mathematics and to explore sex differences in attitudes towards mathematics among students in Accra. A cross-sectional data containing demographic information and attitudes towards mathematics were collected from 181 students made up of 109 boys and 72 girls. They were conveniently sampled from three high schools. Two anonymous self-administered questionnaires were used namely the demographic data questionnaire and the Attitudes Towards Mathematics Inventory (ATMI). The data was analyzed using the SPSS version 16 for calculating mean and the results revealed that there was a significant difference in attitudes shown towards mathematics between boys and girls. The school environment, teachers attitudes and beliefs, teaching styles and parental attitudes were identified as explanation factors that account for student's attitudes towards mathematics. Teachers and other stakeholders in the education industry should organize seminars and workshops for students, parents, teachers and school administrators to enhance and promote positive attitudes towards mathematics.

Key words: attitudes, mathematics, secondary students, Ghana.

Introduction

In today's fast paced world where individuals deal with information generated from computers and calculators to that of mental estimations of daily purchases, it is imperative that students become proficient in mathematics. Not only must learners deal with a wide range of operational skills, such as computing decimals, they must also understand underlying numerical concepts in order to succeed in a variety of day-to-day commercial and work place situations. Research centering on students' attitudes toward mathematics study has received increasing attention, and the most common explanations for gender disparities in mathematics achievement has focused on attitude that students have towards mathematics. In general, most of the studies reported that, compared with boys, girls lacked confidence, had debilitating causal attribution patterns, perceived mathematics as a male domain, and were anxious about mathematics (Casey, Nuttall, & Pezaris, 2001; Vermeer, Boekaert, & Seegers, 2000).

The causes of the gender differences in mathematics attitude were found to be multifaceted, interactive and dynamic (Aikin, 1985). Those with low mathematics abilities are likely to have a more negative attitude towards the subject. They do not have the inclination to improve their skills in mathematics. Although the majority of research indicates that poor attitudes towards mathematics are related to lower levels of achievement in the subject, it has not always been found to be so. Brown (1979) conducted a study involving students enrolled in predominantly black high school. His results showed no statistically significant relationship between these students' attitude towards mathematics and their mathematics performance.

At virtually every grade level, from elementary school through to college, these negative attitudes prevail among female students and do not seem to change as they mature (Reyes, 1984; Willig, Harnisch, Hill & Maehr, 1983). Some researchers have found that strong differences exist in attitudes and perception of the usefulness of mathematics (Lockheed et al., 1985; Oakes, 1990). From the middle school onwards girls show less interest in mathematics and sciences. They have more negative attitudes towards these fields. The reason is that girls have relatively high levels of performance anxiety and little confidence in their personal abilities. They tend to attribute their success to luck, rather than their own effort and abilities (Cross, 1988; Fennema, 1984; Norman 1988).

Thus, girls' negative attitudes towards mathematics and limited academic confidence may influence their later career choices and steer them away from mathematic related fields.

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