Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

An Instrument to Measure Mathematics Attitudes

Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

An Instrument to Measure Mathematics Attitudes

Article excerpt

Abstract

This article is a report of the development of a new instrument to measure students' attitudes toward mathematics, and to determine the underlying dimensions of the instrument by examining the responses of 545 students. The data represent all grade levels and subjects of the secondary mathematics curriculum. The reliability coefficient alpha was .97. A maximum likelihood factor analysis with a varimax rotation yielded four factors: self-confidence; value of mathematics; enjoyment of mathematics; and motivation. Psychometric properties were sound and the instrument, Attitudes Toward Mathematics Inventory (ATMI), can be recommended for use in the investigation of students' attitudes toward mathematics.

Introduction

Conventional wisdom and some research suggest that students with negative attitudes toward mathematics have performance problems simply because of anxiety. Attitudinal research in the field of mathematics has dealt almost exclusively with anxiety or enjoyment of subject matter, excluding other factors. One of the first instruments developed was the Dutton Scale (Dutton, 1954; Dutton & Blum, 1968), which measured "feelings" toward arithmetic. Unidimensional scales were developed by Gladstone, Deal, and Drevdahl (1960) and Aiken and Dreger (1961). Later Aiken (1974) constructed scales designed to measure enjoyment of mathematics and the value of mathematics. Multidimensional attitude scales were developed by Michaels and Forsyth (1977) and by Sandman (1980). Some researchers developed scales dealing exclusively with math anxiety. Examples of such scales are the Mathematics Anxiety Rating Scale (Richardson & Suinn, 1972), the Mathematics Anxiety Rating Scale--Revised (Plake & Parker, 1982) and the Mathematics Anxiety Questionanaire (Wigfield & Meece, 1988). The Fennema-Sherman Mathematics Attitude Scales (1976) were developed in 1976, and it has become one of the most popular instruments used in research over the last three decades. The Fennema-Sherman Mathematics Attitude Scales consist of a group of nine instruments: (1) Attitude Toward Success in Mathematics Scale, (2) Mathematics as a Male Domain Scale, (3) and (4) Mother/Father Scale, (5) Teacher Scale, (6) Confidence in Learning Mathematics Scale, (7) Mathematics Anxiety Scale, (8) Effectance Motivation Scale in Mathematics, and (9) Mathematics Usefulness Scale.

Ashcraft and Kirk (2001) describe the common belief that because of "long-term avoidance of math, and their lesser mastery of the math that couldn't be avoided, high-math-anxiety individuals are simply less competent at doing math" (p. 224). The "competence explanation" is central to Fennema's model (Fennema, 1989), which explains math performance as merely an interaction of affect (attitudes and math anxiety) and behavior during learning tasks. Ashcraft and Kirk regard this explanation as simplistic. Fennema's theory is based on research with the Fennema-Sherman Mathematics Attitudes Scales, which has clearly been the most popular instrument in research about attitudes toward math (Fennema & Sherman, 1976). The instrument is nearly thirty years old, has 108 items, and takes 45 minutes to complete. It purports to have nine scales, but subsequent research has questioned the validity, reliability (Suinn and Edwards, 1982), and integrity of its scores (O'Neal, Ernest, McLean, & Templeton, 1988). Melancon, Thompson, and Becnel (1994) isolated eight factors rather than nine, and they were unable to find a perfect fit with the model proposed by Fennema and Sherman. Mulhern and Rae (1998) identified only six factors, and suggested that the scales might not gauge what they were intended to measure. Other researchers suggest that students may find math to be simply unappealing or socially unacceptable, although they may actually have high aptitude. In any case, it is crucial that any investigation of attitudes be assessed with an instrument that has good technical characteristics if research conclusions are to be meaningful. …

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