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Abstract

The relationship between students’ attitudes toward mathematics and mathematics achievement has garnered tremendous attention from researchers. However, there is a degree of inconsistency in the findings regarding this relationship. Therefore, this study aimed to identify the profiles of students’ attitudes toward mathematics and examine their relationship with mathematics achievement. Using latent profile analysis, we examined data from the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study conducted in Singapore in 2019. We identified four profiles of attitudes toward mathematics, namely very negative (5.44%), negative (41.38%), neutral (38.77%), and positive (14.41%). We also confirmed the literature describing students’ attitude toward mathematics as a multidimensionally integrated construct, comprising ‘like mathematics,’ ‘value mathematics,’ and ‘confidence in mathematics.’ Moreover, we discovered a positive relationship between students’ attitudes toward mathematics and mathematics achievement. These results showed that the following students are more likely to have high mathematics achievement:

(a) those who like to study mathematics and pursue mathematics-related activities,

(b) those who believe that learning mathematics will result in a positive outcome (e.g., success in school and job opportunities), and

(c) those who trust in their mathematical abilities. Therefore, educators need to examine students’ attitudes toward mathematics and provide appropriate support to stimulate the development of a positive attitude toward mathematics.

 

CHAPTER ONE

Introduction

1.1 Background of study

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 Asante, K. O; Secondary Students‟ Attitude towards Mathematics 123 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. Steinkamp and Maehr (1984) who investigated students‘ attitudes toward mathematics in the high school years suggested that gender differences emerge partly as a result of the new learning environment that students face when they enter high school. At this level students are exposed to a greater number of male teachers and to a more competitive and unstructured learning environment that may undermine girls‘ self esteem and confidence in their academic abilities. This new environment could therefore contribute to subsequent inequalities in male and female students‘ performance in 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 et al, 2001; Vermeer et al, 2000). The causes of the gender differences in mathematics attitude were found to be multifaceted. Studies conducted so far have identified six main factors that were found to affect student attitudes toward mathematics: teacher attitudes and beliefs (Uusimaki & Nason, 2004; Beswick, 2006; Beswick, 2007), teaching style and behavior (Harkness, D‘Ambrosio, & Morrone, 2006; Schweinle, Meyer, & Turner, 2006), teaching techniques (Anderson, 2005; Kinney, 2001; Whitin, 2007) achievement (Hannula 2002, Tapia & Marsh 2001), parent attitudes and beliefs (Papanastatsiou, 2000; Wong, 1992), and students‘ classroom experiences (Fisher & Rickards, 1998; Forgasz & Leder, 1996), as being influential in making girls internalize the feeling that they are inferior to boys in mathematics. Studies that have considered classroom environments as a contributory factor to students attitudes towards mathematics, consider teachers‘ classroom behaviours to be a factor associated with students‘ attitudes (Gallagher & Kaufman, 2006). Most of the studies on student‘s attitudes towards mathematics have centered on Western samples, whilst very few studies (Asare-Nkoom, 2007; Chamdimba, 2008; Yara, 2009) have been conducted from Africa. Limited data in this respect limits our understanding of the general phenomenon of sex differences in attitudes towards mathematics worldwide. The aim of this study is to assess senior high student‘s attitudes towards mathematics and to Ife PsychologIA; 20(1) March, 2012 124 explore sex differences in attitudes towards mathematics among students in the subject in Accra, Ghana. It was hypothesized that there will be a significant difference between boys and girls on their attitudes towards mathematics as a subject, with boys showing more favourable attitude than girls. The attitude of students toward mathematics has been the subject of a great deal of attention from educators (e.g., (Chen et al., 2018; Goldin et al., 2016)). Students with a positive attitude toward mathematics tend to enjoy the subject, understand its value, and have confidence in it; thus, they are likely to prioritize the study of mathematics (Kiwanuka, Van Damme, Van den Noortgate, & Reynolds, 2020; Mullis, Martin, Foy, Kelly, & Fishbein, 2020), which could lead to high performance in the same (Chouinard, Karsenti, & Roy, 2007; Guo, Marsh, Parker, Morin, & Yeung, 2015; Wigfield., Tonks, & Klauda, 2016). Although several researchers have reported a positive relationship between students’ attitudes toward mathematics and mathematics achievement (Bhowmik & Roy, 2016; Bramlett & Herron, 2009; Chen et al., 2018; Dowker, Cheriton, Horton, & Mark, 2019; Guo et al., 2015; Kadijevich, 2008; Lipnevich, Preckel, & Krumm, 2016; Ma. & Xu, 2004), others have reported a nonsignificant association between them (Köller, Baumert, & Schnabel, 2001; Mubeen, Saeed, & Arif, 2013; Papanastasiou, 2000; Phonguttha, Tayraukham, & Nuangchalerm, 2009).

These mixed findings may plausibly be explained by the limitations of previous studies: (a) the use of a variable-centered approach, (b) the omission of crucial covariates, and (c) the examination of small and nonrepresentative samples. First, most previous studies have used a variable-centered approach. These studies examined individual components of attitude (e.g., enjoyment of mathematics and the value placed in mathematics) separately, whereas for individual students these components are interrelated (Di Martino & Zan, 2011; Mullis et al., 2020). Second, some previous studies failed to control for the effect of student backgrounds (e.g., (Bhowmik & Roy, 2016; Lipnevich et al., 2016; Phonguttha et al., 2009)). When students have sufficient educational learning resources at home, and their teachers provide clear explanations and feedback, they can learn effectively and focus on studying mathematics, which leads to high mathematics achievement (Byrnes & Wasik, 2009). However, because some studies did not statistically control for these variables, their results might be biased (Zhu & Chiu, 2019). Third, a number of studies did not select nationally representative samples and instead used small and nonrepresentative samples (e.g., (Dowker et al., 2019; Phonguttha et al., 2009)). Consequently, these individual studies have examined different types of students and reported mixed findings.

Researchers have suggested examining the subgroup of students using a person-centered approach because the relationship between students’ attitude toward mathematics and mathematics achievement could differ according to their characteristics (Berger, Mackenzie, & Holmes, 2020; Papanastasiou, 2000). Therefore, we have opted to examine the existence of different groups of students with regard to their attitude toward mathematics and to examine the relationship between attitudes toward mathematics and mathematics achievement, while keeping in mind the limitations of previous studies.

 

1.2 Statement of the Problem

The seemingly misconceptions by students, parents, teachers and even Government officials that mathematics is a difficult subject necessitated this study. Most Nigerian students perform poorly in Mathematics examinations and that they underachieved in mathematics when compared to students from other countries such as Ghana. These results give impetus to the development of further research that seeks to characterize and understand different variables, which may influence student performance in Mathematics. This will help to make possible strategies for future action in schools, families, and communities, in order to bring about an improvement in the failure rate in mathematics in school and public examinations. Also, the way students perceive a teacher or a subject determines their success or failure in that subject. Some students today perceived mathematics as no go area because of the negative impressions passed down to them by the past generation who had bad experience with unqualified mathematics teachers, which is still in circulation: that mathematics is the most difficult subjects in the school, it is not meant for everybody, not everybody passes it, it is meant for those with special talent (Audu, 1995). On hearing all these negative expression since before school age or getting admission into school, the child psychologically develops fear for the subject and come to the lesson with these notion and if confronted with any mathematical problem-solving will quickly conceptualized him/her self: I cannot do any difficult task, it is not meant for people like me, accepting defeat. Therefore, the hierarchy needs of both teachers and students should be met to motivate both parties for better performance. According to Maslow, teachers should do everything possible to help students satisfy their deficiency (mathematics), because an inner motivation for knowledge will not develop until these basic needs are met. He observed that teachers are not always able to intervene in student’s life to the extent necessary to fulfill deficiency needs, but suggested that, teachers instead are in a position to provide a classroom conducive for learning,, that could fulfill deficiency needs, especially in mathematics, a subject which if not passed with credit, no student could be given admission into any tertiary institution, especially in science and technology-related courses. Teachers and primarily parents, as much as possible should help and encourage their children in Influence Of Students’ Attitudes To The Learning Of Mathematics On Their Academic Achievement In Senior Secondary Schools meeting deficiency needs, which consequently could enhance effective teaching and learning of all subjects.

1.3 Objective of the Study

The main objective of the study is to examine the influence of students’ attitudes to the learning of mathematics on their academic achievements in senior secondary schools. Specifically, the study aims:

  1. Examine if the students’ attitude towards the study of mathematics affects their academic performance in examination
  2. Investigate how teacher’s qualification and teaching methods students’ academic performance in mathematics examination in secondary schools
  3. Evaluate if the sex of the student a determinant in his or her attitude towards studying of mathematics

1.4 Research Questions

Based on the research objectives, the following research questions were proffered to guide the study:

  1. Does students’ attitude towards the study of mathematics affect their academic performance in examination?
  2. Is teacher’s qualification and teaching methods students’ academic performance in mathematics examination ion secondary schools?
  3. Is sex of the student a determinant in his or her attitude towards studying of mathematics?

1.5 Significance of the Study

The aim is to educate the present and new incoming generations on the likely variables perceived to be affecting learning and teaching of mathematics in secondary schools, resulting to the persistent rate of failure in the subject. A person’s attitude to an idea or object determines what the person thinks, feels and how the person would like to act or behave towards that idea or the object. Therefore, the students’ attitude towards their teachers’ qualification could influence their attitude towards learning mathematics or any other school subject and subsequently, academic performance in examinations. Students more often than not, judge their teachers in such areas as the teachers’ knowledge of the subject matter, communication, ability and the choice of appropriate teaching method, class management and leadership style. A teacher who is rated high on these indices in the eye of the students is likely to enjoy the confidence, respect and admiration of his/her students and vice versa and in the process become their role model, mentor and inspirator in the subject taught. By examining the different perceptions, attitudes, belief and myths of mathematics that parents, former students and even community people and policy makers hold, there is a potential for such perceptions, attitudes, beliefs and myths to be challenged, promoted or discouraged scientifically with proofs. The information obtained will enhance better strategies and measures, information and understanding for promoting students’ beliefs, understanding and participation in mathematics and mathematics-related fields during their career development. The results of this study might inform the extent of the influences of parents and teachers in shaping students’ perceptions, attitude and bahaviour towards mathematics. This information can be used to promote positive attitudes while attempting to avoid the negative influences of these sources. It will help to understand better the roles of parents and teachers in the shaping of students’ attitudes towards the study of mathematics and academic performance. The findings will reflect possible implication for mathematics education and mathematics teacher education. Knowing how students perceive mathematics learning experiences in school and how this could influence their attitudes towards mathematics will help policy makers, curriculum planners and other education stakeholders to understand better how mathematics should be presented at the planning and policy levels and in the classroom for easy appreciation by students. This knowledge may also help to enhance better curriculum planning and teacher development programmes. Students’ views of mathematics are important as they can shape the way in which they learn mathematics. Such views and attitudes may have more influence than knowledge in determining how individual students organize and define tasks, while studying mathematics. Perceptions of what mathematics is and is not, may affect attitudes, performance, confidence and perceived usefulness of mathematics in the short, medium and long run.

1.6 Scope of the Study

This study was concerned with the attitude of secondary school students in the teaching and learning of mathematics and their academic archievement. The variables captured in the study include: Attitude of students towards the teaching and learning of mathematics, teachers’ academic qualifications and method of teaching, students’ gender and academic performance among student gender in the study of mathematics in the sampled schools. What students perceive will influence the learning process positively or negatively. That is, how students observe or perceive their teachers’ teaching method, use of instructional materials, through communication and competency influence their learning process.

1.7 Limitations of the Study

This research work is specifically on the influence of students’ attitudes to the learning of mathematics on their academic achievements in senior secondary schools. In the limitation on research work of this magnitude or nature can be carried out without limitation. Hence, during the course, certain constraints were encountered.

Cost: The cost of thorough research is not what can be afforded by a student. The prices of materials needed for this work has gone up and transport fee has also gone up

Time: The time was one of the limitations in the process of carrying out this research work.

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