CHAPTE V IMPLICATIONS, RECOMMENDATIONS, CONCLUSIONS Introduction 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’ 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’t 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’re 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’ 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: “I dread having to do math” and “I’m afraid to answer questions in math class” had significant correlations (p<.01 and p<.05 respectively) with “I don’t like math.” There were some other interesting correlations that may shed some light on why students dislike math. The question: “The personality of the math teacher is not important,” relates to the affective environment of the classroom and had significant correlations to “Math is too hard”, “When taking a math test, I usually feel nervous and uneasy” (highly significant), “I’m afraid to ask questions in math class” (highly significant), “I’m afraid to answer questions in math class”, and “I will only take math courses that are required” (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’ 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 “One of the most important reasons for nurturing a positive attitude in mathematics is that it may increase one’s tendency to elect mathematics courses in high school and college and possibly to elect careers in a math related field” (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: “I will only take math courses that are required” 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 “big picture.” The students were asked whether they would like and/or use a homework “chat room” 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 “instant messaging” 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’t have time to engage in most of the students’ 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’ 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’t be looked down upon by the teacher or other students if they get the answer wrong or don’t understand. Since falling behind may be reason students say they aren’t good at math and therefore don’t like math, teachers should strive to make sure as many students as possible obtain mastery of

the subject. Tutoring is now available in most schools (including the middle school surveyed) and should be encouraged and expanded. Peer tutoring during class time or group work may help those students who are falling behind. Math skills build on earlier skills and understanding and become more complex. Limitations The survey was conducted at only one school and only 49 of the approximately 90 eighth graders participated. The school is ethnically (98% white) and economically (low to middle income) homogeneous providing no diversity. Summary The results suggest that the reasons students dislike math are related to the negative effects of extrinsic motivation, affective anxiety and the affective environment of the classroom. Recommendations for Future Research Since the dislike of math is evident in eighth grade, future research should focus on when students begin to dislike math. Research should also study the effects of interventions suggested for effectiveness. Conclusion This chapter discussed the results and findings of the survey, implications for educators, and recommendations for future research. With the widespread dislike of math and focus of government and the society on improving math and science achievement, educators should focus on changing these negative attitudes

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