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Chapter V

Chapter V

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Published by: api-3820126 on Oct 18, 2008
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This chapter will discuss the findings of the study, implications for
educators, and recommendations for future research.
Summary of Findings

The finding of this study was that 37 percent of the eighth grade
students who took the survey disliked math. This is a large percentage and
indicates how widespread the problem may be. Wilkins and Ma (2003)
found that students\u2019 attitudes toward math became less positive as they
entered high school. Since 37 percent already dislike math when they
leave middle school and they get even less positive in high school, its no
wonder that there is such a widespread dislike of math.

There was a highly significant correlation (p<.01) of those students
who did not like math and those that indicated they weren\u2019t good at math.
This agrees with the highly significant correlation (P<.01) between the
students answers on the survey and their expected grade in their current
math class. One possible reason students say they\u2019re not good at math is
may be that they had at least one year they fell behind. Table 2 shows that
5 of the 18 students who dislike math agreed strongly with that statement.
Also, answers on the open-ended question asking about their best and
worst experiences in math were overwhelmingly related to achievement
(test scores, grades, understanding). This indicates that students\u2019
achievement in math is an important factor in whether or not they like
math. Therefore, this suggests students place a lot of emphasis on
extrinsic motivation. In this case, extrinsic motivation can lead to a
negative attitude toward math.

Affective anxiety also had significant correlations with the dislike of
math. Affective anxiety can be described as nervousness, fear, dread, or
tension (Ho et al., 2000). The two questions: \u201cI dread having to do math\u201d
and \u201cI\u2019m afraid to answer questions in math class\u201d had significant
correlations (p<.01 and p<.05 respectively) with \u201cI don\u2019t like math.\u201d

There were some other interesting correlations that may shed some
light on why students dislike math. The question: \u201cThe personality of the
math teacher is not important,\u201d relates to the affective environment of the
classroom and had significant correlations to \u201cMath is too hard\u201d, \u201cWhen
taking a math test, I usually feel nervous and uneasy\u201d (highly significant),
\u201cI\u2019m afraid to ask questions in math class\u201d (highly significant), \u201cI\u2019m afraid
to answer questions in math class\u201d, and \u201cI will only take math courses that
are required\u201d (highly significant). These results suggest that the affective
environment in the classroom (in this case the teachers personality) plays
an important role in the students\u2019 affective anxiety, future plans of the
students, and their perception of the difficulty of math.

Previous research has indicated that students with negative attitudes will avoid taking math classes that are not required or choosing a career in a math related field. For example, Schiefele & Csikszentmihalyi (1995)

stated \u201cOne of the most important reasons for nurturing a positive attitude
in mathematics is that it may increase one\u2019s tendency to elect
mathematics courses in high school and college and possibly to elect
careers in a math related field\u201d (p. 177). The definition of dislike for this
study is the desire to avoid math classes. The last correlation discussed
relates to that definition. The question: \u201cI will only take math courses that
are required\u201d had significant correlations with the teacher personality, lack
of interest (boring), anxiety, and perceived ability.
Implications for Educators

The results of this study suggests that educators should focus on
improving the classroom affective environment, addressing affective
anxiety, and reducing the effects of negative extrinsic motivation in order
to foster positive attitudes in math. The students gave some interesting
suggestions on how to make math more enjoyable. They were play more
math games, have some fun activities, make it interesting/relevant, have
some group activities, use real life examples, and less homework. All of
these suggestions address the results of this study. In discussions with the
classes, the idea of bringing in professionals in various fields (not just
math/science) was offered. The students seemed to like the idea and it
would help them envision where math fits in the \u201cbig picture.\u201d The
students were asked whether they would like and/or use a homework \u201cchat
room\u201d where the teacher would be available during certain times to
answer questions. The students seemed very receptive and excited about
the idea. Since most students had Internet access and since \u201cinstant
messaging\u201d is so popular with the students this may be an innovative way
to get them interested in doing homework. One eighth teacher indicated
that in eighth grade the requirements and amount of curriculum to cover
increased greatly over sixth or seventh grades. Thus, she felt she didn\u2019t
have time to engage in most of the students\u2019 suggestions such as playing
math games. This is a conundrum a lot of teachers face.

Educators should look for ways to foster positive attitudes in
students at all grade levels, but since a negative attitude toward math is
evident by eighth grade, educators at earlier grade levels should help
students build positive identities as math learners. For those students who
dislike math, focusing on the students understanding instead of grades
may help counter the negative effects of extrinsic motivation. The results
of this study agree with the findings of Stipek et al. (2000) which found
students enjoyment and positive emotions toward math were higher when
there was a focus on improvement and mastery over grades. To address
the problem of students\u2019 affective anxiety (e.g. being afraid to answer
questions in math class), teachers should focus on creating an emotionally
safe environment where students feel comfortable and know they won\u2019t be
looked down upon by the teacher or other students if they get the answer
wrong or don\u2019t understand. Since falling behind may be reason students
say they aren\u2019t good at math and therefore don\u2019t like math, teachers
should strive to make sure as many students as possible obtain mastery of

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