Factors influencing the attitudes of senior secondary school students towards the study of mathematics

Factors influencing the attitudes of senior secondary school students towards the study of mathematics



Background of the Study

 Student feeling and perception about mathematics is a major factor that affects his or her attainment and realization of full potential. Neale (2009) defines attitudes towards mathematics as “alienated measures of like or disliking of mathematics, a tendency to engage in or avoid mathematics activities, he belief that mathematics is useful or useless”. Several important components emerge from these definitions: attitude is learned,  it influences one to take a slated or implied altitude or to have such an attitude  as a result of prior influences that may be either positive and there is response consistency. On the same note, Aiken (1996) defines attitude as “a learned predispositions or tendency on the part of an individual to respond positively or negative to some objects, situation, concept or another person.

Teacher’s attitudes towards mathematics could presuppose an inclination to pass on what they have received as a duty or as a valuable asset of knowledge that could be beneficial in their learners. On the contrary the learner‟s altitudes towards mathematics could be valued in relation to natural disposition environmental exposure, scales of value or personal disposition, which needs investigation to establish the missing link in the achievement of mathematics

Attitudes are regarded by several researchers, as an important/key factor to be taken into account when attempting to understand and explain variability in student performance in mathematics. Mobilizing a set of different definitions concerning attitudes presented since 1935, Eshun (2007, page 2] defines an attitude towards mathematics as “a disposition towards an aspect of mathematics that has been acquired by an individual through his or her beliefs and experiences but which could be changed.” When emphasizing the importance of individual experiences, the contexts where students interact with others and with mathematics become important focal points. According to Reid (2006), attitudes express our evaluation of something or someone. They are based on our knowledge, feeling and behavior and they may influence future behavior, a target is essential for attitude. Attitudes are highly composite and they can affect learning comprehensively. Attitudes influence performance and performance in turn influences attitudes.

According to Fishbein Model of value – expectancy (Fishbein, 1975), he argued that a person‟s attitude determined his/her intended behavior, which could ultimately affect the outcome. Based on the model, he stated that a person would hold certain attitudes towards an object by evaluating it. After going through his process the person then decides whether to hold a favourable or unfavorable view towards it. Indeed such a positive or negative attitude could further influence the person‟s intentions to engage in various behaviors with regard to that particular object (Fishbein and Ajzen 1975, P14).

Based on the person‟s behavior, this could be regarded as a significant predictor of the final outcome. Attitudes will affect behavior, influencing what the learner selects from the environment, how he will react towards teachers, towards the material being used and towards the other students.

In particular, Ajzen and Fishbein‟s (1980) theory of reasoned action, which is concerned fundamentally with predicting behavior focuses on the distinction between attitudes towards some „object‟ and attitudes towards some specific action to be performed towards that „object‟ (e.g. between attitudes towards science and attitudes towards doing school science). Ajzen and Fishbein (1980) argue that it is the latter kind of attitude that best predicts behavior. Thus their theory represents a relationship between attitude, intention and behavior. Behavior is seen as being determined by intention, and intention, in turn, is a joint product of attitude towards the behavior and the subjective norm (i.e. beliefs about how other people would regard one‟s performance of the behavior).

The question in this study is what influences attitudes towards mathematics and how it affects teaching and learning of Mathematics among secondary school level boys and girls. This is because of the urgent need to elevate mathematics as low performance inhibits participation in many occupations and career development. Theoretical arguments have it that, there are indeed numerous researches conducted on testing the relationship between attitude and academic achievement. Based on the past literature, there has been a general consensus that attitude could be regarded as a significant predictor of one‟s academic achievement. Most of these researches illustrated the more positive one‟s attitude towards academic subject, the high the possibility for him/her to perform well academically.


In a research conducted in U.S. (House 1995, p. 37), the researcher studied the relationship between students‟ attitude and academic achievement in college mathematics by inviting 218 fresh students to complete a set of questionnaire. The results indicated that students‟ attitude were highly correlated with their achievement with college calculus. (House 1995, p. 37).

In pursuit for solution, earlier research by Miheso (2003), Munyao (2003) and Nyambuka (2004) investigated on Mathematics teaching methodologies and language factors, and gender disparities all in relation to performance. However, these studies seem not to provide sufficient solution in the domain of attitudes in relation to mathematics achievement amongst students. Therefore, it is hoped that the present study can provide further insights on the phenomenon.

In a research done by Kate Christian, Fredrick Morrison and Fred Brayn (2019), determined that family education level and childcare environment could influence students achievement in Mathematics. Fraser and Kahle (2008) have also highlighted this aspect in research which shows that learning environments at home, at school, and within the peer group accounted for a significant amount of variance in student attitudes and, furthermore, that class ethos had a significant impact on the scores achieved by students for these attitudes. Attitudes can be seen as more or less positive.

A positive attitude towards mathematics reflects a positive emotional disposition in relation to the subject and, in a similar way, a negative attitude towards mathematics relates to a negative emotional disposition. Sarwat Mubeen et al (2013) (in their journal of humanities and general sciences) on attitude towards Mathematics and academic


achievement, points out that in order to succeed in a subject, positive attitude towards the subject is a necessary prerequisite. For this reason positive attitudes towards mathematics are desirable since they may influence one‟s willingness to learn and also the benefits one can derive from mathematics instruction

According to Kathleen Manzo (2008), teachers should motivate students that do not receive necessary support from home. Furthermore, this motivation is mostly easily incorporated into elementary classrooms because by middle and high school, students have more solidified attitudes (Manzo, 2008). Lack of motivation could mean an apathetic attitude or lack of self confidence in school. In their research, Fisher and Rickards (1998) found that students‟ attitude towards Mathematics tend to be more positive in classroom where students perceived greater leadership and helping / friendly behaviors in their teachers and more in their classrooms where students perceived their teachers as admonishing and enforcing strict behaviors.

Despite findings of girls‟ low confidence in mathematics, studies of classroom environment have shown that the girls‟ confidence in mathematics have improved greatly in classes which actively involved girls in the learning of mathematics (Boaler, 2000). Similarly Bolaji (2000) conducted a study that examined the influence of student’s attitude towards mathematics in the junior secondary school. A random sample of 280 students was used. The research design employed was case study Students‟ questionnaire was the only instrument used to collect data. If the instruments were triangulated a more in- depth understanding of the case could be gained. The study used descriptive statistics analysis techniques to come up with the conclusions. The research findings revealed that students in the schools, preferred classroom activities regard to the effect of the


curriculum. The teachers‟ personality and interrelationship with students was a crucial variable in attitude formation. The study further revealed that the form grade of the students were associated with liking mathematics.

The findings of this study may not be valid or reliable as the instrument used to collect data was not appropriate. The research instrument for a case study design is interviews schedule therefore the results of the study may be termed not meaningful. The research recommended students to be helped develop positive attitudes towards mathematics by both teachers and parents. A similar study can be carried out using sure design the results can be generalized to a wider population. Another study was carried out by Yavoz (1991) to investigate the effects of different teaching methods on attitude towards learning mathematics and retained mathematics achievement on the topic of mathematics achievement level of tenth grade students.

The research was conducted on 120 tenth grade students and the topic selected was areas of polygonal regions. Quasi experiment design was employed and purposely sampling was used to select the 120 students. The study did not have a control group but gave treatment to all the sampled students. The data was analyzed by analysis of variance, two- way classification.

The results of the study revealed that, attitude towards mathematics and mathematics achievement level of students taught by discovery method and lecture with computer supported drill and practice method scored significantly higher than the students taught by lecture method with respect to immediate mathematics achievement .The students in the higher achievement group showed significantly higher attitudes towards mathematics


than the students taught by lecture with computer supported drill and practice method. However the researcher didn‟t say how he controlled the other extraneous variables like high achievement in the mathematics test scores of the students, private coaching and hence validity of the results is questionable. Therefore, it is hoped that the present study will provide further insights on the phenomenon.

In their study Sechaba and Moroke (2000), examined gender differences and black learners‟ attitudes towards mathematics in selected high schools in South Africa. The study adopted a qualitative approach and a cross- sectional design as the data was gathered at one point in time. It was non casual in nature, and took place in the natural learning environment. Four secondary schools were randomly chosen from the 18 in phuthadityhaba. 20 learners in total made up of 10 boys and 10 girls were interviewed. Meulenberg- Busken‟s free attitudes interview schedule was used to collect data while Fairclough‟s (1993) textually oriented Discourse Analysis was used to analyze data. The discussion of results and findings revealed that the difference between boys and girls were very clear at all levels of analysis. In the findings boys showed greater signs of finding comfort in mathematics as a discipline than girls.

In conclusion the study showed that there were gendered attitudes towards mathematics, which were as a result of socialization. Reviewing the design used in this study critically, it doesn‟t allow for in depth understanding of the problem given that the study was carried out in a natural learning environment. The findings of the study cannot be generalized, as many of the responses are the students‟ own perceptions which may not be the case in real learning situations. The study didn‟t target teachers and yet mathematics teachers are a vital resource in the learning of mathematics. A similar study can be carried out including teacher in the target group and the results can be generalized. Teacher Qualification and professional development has a direct bearing on the students‟ attitude towards the subject the teacher handles. Hansen (1976) on the international study of achievement in mathematics concluded that there is a relationship between Mathematics and the length and type of the teacher‟s post- secondary education.

He said that the more training a teacher has received the better would be the achievement of his students. This clearly indicates that a teacher‟s post- secondary training will expose him to the skills needed to deliver the relevant knowledge and skills, later to his students at the secondary level. A study by Kariuki and Kibera (1996) revealed that 57% of a second year bachelor of education cohort at a local university in Nigeria, did not like being teachers, even after having completed their teaching practice. They ended up in this programme after failing to get their first career choices. For them, teaching was a stop gap measure while looking for better careers. Such teachers would naturally go to school to „work‟ rather than teach and would not really exert themselves in order to teach well.

The quality of teachers is dependent on the selection of top quality candidates for teaching, their pre-service education and continuous professional development (Kang‟ethe & Nafuko, 2000). Sobel Naad Maletsky (1988) presented this view; Teachers must know their staff. They must know the pupils whom they are stuffing. And above all they must know how to stuff them critically. Teachers with proper qualification of the content develop self- confidence and serve a source of inspiration and a good role model to the students. This makes the student to like (have positive attitude to) the subject. The study was interested in finding out teachers‟ levels of professional training and academic qualifications and how this influences attitude of the learners and how the teachers professional skills impact on the learners‟ attitude and how this factor affect the resulting performance in mathematics

In pursuit for solution, Eshiwani (1993) found that factors which influence students‟ achievement in science subjects and mathematics are directly related to the students‟ attitude towards these subjects. He reveals that factors include availability of teaching  and learning resources such as mathematics models, libraries, textbooks, laboratories, laboratory equipment and chemicals. However there is need to study how these factors are directly related to the students‟ attitude towards these subjects especially mathematics. Webster (1966) asserts that educational philosophy should aim at improving normal school practices.

This should be aimed at giving children a sense of reality in school, making schools into workshops, laboratories, libraries and inspiring educational experimentation. Attitudes affects almost all if not everything that we do in life, the way we talk, read, work and even the way we do mathematics among other things. Cock Roll (2012) and Kilpatrick indicated that attitudes play an important role in the learning process.

In many instance attitudes are manifested by strong expressed feeling for or against mathematics and are linked with some emotion such as love, hate or fear. It is commonly felt that students‟ emotions, attitudes and beliefs are not only a result of past learning experience but that the will inevitably play a role also in the way he responds to new learning environments. Therefore teachers and all who are involved in the education of children have a heavy responsibility in helping to create a favourable attitude towards mathematics. For teachers to achieve health and productive learning experiences they should seek ways to balance the strong cognitive demands that make student have sufficient affective reward.

  Statement of the problem.

Pupils‟ performance in the mathematics subject in Nigeria  has not been satisfactory, both at the county level and national examinations despite that Mathematics is one of the compulsory subjects taken in both primary and secondary levels. Its knowledge is applied in all disciplines including everyday life. Unfortunately, it is evident from statistics that achievement in mathematics had remained low over the years. This has remained a great concern to parents, teachers, government and other stakeholders who have called for a probe into mathematics achievement. Professor Kiptoon, former Secretary in the Ministry of Education (MOEST, 2001) claimed that the poor performance in primary mathematics was attributed to teachers who lacked the subject competence and most of them are unskilled (PTA teachers).

Hence the government in 2001 Through the Ministry of Education introduced distance learning courses called School Based for teachers‟ development. This is because of the urgent need to elevate mathematics performance as low achievement inhibits participation in many occupations and career development.

Objectives of the study 

The main objectives are to investigate,


  1. The factors that influence development of students‟ attitude towards teaching and learning of mathematics
  2. The factors influencing students‟ achievement in Mathematics


            Research questions.


The study was aimed to answer the following questions.

  1. What is the influence of teaching methods on students‟ attitude towards mathematics?
  2. How do background factors influence students‟ attitudes towards mathematics?


  1. Is there any relationship between teaching and learning resource materials and students attitudes towards mathematics?
  2. What is the relationship between teachers‟ qualification‟s and students‟ attitude towards mathematics?




H0 = There is significant relationship between students‟ attitude towards mathematics and their mathematics achievement.

H1 = there is no significant relationship between students‟ attitude toward mathematics and their achievement in mathematics


            Significance of the study


The finding of the study had both theoretical and practical implications on the future of mathematics as a subject in our schools. Theoretically, the study has highlighted the factors that influence the students‟ attitude in mathematics among secondary school students in Nigeria and this would assist education planners and curriculum developers to map out strategies by which performance can be improved.

The study is also expected to contribute to the advancement of knowledge about the factors affecting performance of mathematics among secondary school students. The


study would also have practical significance because it would lead to the improvement of strategies aimed at improving the performance in mathematics by fostering students‟ attitude in mathematics in secondary schools. The study would be of immediate help to curriculum implementers in the formulation of strategies aimed at enhancing students‟ attitude in mathematics. The study forms a base on which others would develop their studies

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