Academic journal article Kuram ve Uygulamada Egitim Bilimleri

Changing High School Students' Attitudes towards Mathematics in a Summer Camp: Happiness Matters

Academic journal article Kuram ve Uygulamada Egitim Bilimleri

Changing High School Students' Attitudes towards Mathematics in a Summer Camp: Happiness Matters

Article excerpt

Mathematics as a discipline is greatly important in many areas in academic, professional and daily life. For instance, it equips individuals with skills valued in many university courses and subjects including engineering, the sciences, and social sciences (Norris, 2012). Mathematical skills are also necessary to pursuing a wide range of good careers and being successful in the workplace (Hoyles, Noss, Kent, & Bakker, 2010; Vorderman, Porkess, Budd, Dunne, & Rahman-Hart, 2011). Moreover, mathematical skills foster many skills needed for problem solving, decision making and dealing with the complexities of daily life (English & Gainsburg, 2015; Jenning & Wattam, 1998). In line with rapid technological changes, the demand for mathematical skills is constantly increasing. Therefore, providing young people with a good basis for mathematics education is crucial. However, despite the importance of mathematics in different spheres of life, students often have negative attitudes towards mathematics, which is a major concern for mathematics education.

Psychological theories explain attitude as a tendency to evaluate a particular entity with a certain level of favor or disfavor (Eagly & Chaiken, 1993). Although researchers have debated the dimensionality of attitudes, one widely accepted model postulates that attitude consists of three basic components: cognitive, affective, and behavioral (Maio & Haddock, 2010). While the cognitive component refers to what a person thinks or believes, the affective aspect is concerned with the feelings or emotions associated with the object, and the behavioral component refers to the tendency to react to the object.

Attitude is a commonly used term in the mathematics education literature as well, yet it is a concept difficult to define precisely. In fact, the term has been used interchangeably with others such as mathematics anxiety, which actually refers to feelings of tension interfering with the individual's ability to solve mathematical problems in different academic contexts (Tobias, 1995). However, attitudes towards mathematics, just like other types of attitudes, do not necessarily entail negative feelings - they are defined in a broader way. Although some scholars conceive of attitudes as a matter of liking or disliking mathematics, i.e., an emotional disposition to the subject (e.g., Eshun, 2004), others have argued that a multidimensional explanation including cognitive and affective aspects provides a better understanding (Hannula, 2002; McLeod, 1992). For instance, in an early study, Neale (1969) defined attitude as "a liking or disliking of mathematics, a tendency to engage in or avoid mathematical activities, a belief that one is good or bad at mathematics, and a belief that mathematics is useful or useless" (p. 632). The importance of including cognition in the definition of attitudes has been stressed by other scholars as well (e.g., Leder, 1987). Adding a behavioral component, Hart (1989, as cited in Zan & Di Martino, 2007) stated that attitudes towards mathematics can be defined as the emotions individuals associate with mathematics, their beliefs towards mathematics, and their behaviors. Ruffell, Mason, and Allen (1998) suggested that a multidimensional construct with three components - cognitive (beliefs), affective (feelings) and conative (behavioral intent) - better explains attitudes towards mathematics. In a series of studies, Zan and Di Martino (2007) and Di Martino and Zan (2010) identified a model comprised of three dimensions: a) emotional disposition towards mathematics, b) vision of mathematics, and c) perception of being /not being able to succeed (perceived competence) in mathematics.

In general, attitude towards mathematics is conceptualized as having affective, cognitive, and behavioral components, just like any other attitude. However, despite the fact that many studies into attitudes towards mathematics have been conducted, there is still need for more comprehensive theoretical development of the concept of attitudes in mathematics education. …

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