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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The relationship between attitudes towards specific mathematics topics and achievement in those domains Walsh, Carmel Frances


The purpose of this study was to investigate the nature of the relationship between high school students’ attitudes towards particular mathematics topics and their achievement in those areas. In order to examine this relationship, data collected by the 1990 British Columbia Mathematics Assessment concerning students in Grade 7 and Grade 10 were analyzed. This assessment involved over 37 000 students at the Grade 7 level and over 31 000 Grade 10 students. Data concerning students’ perceptions as to the importance, difficulty, and likeability of various mathematics topics were collected by the assessment. Achievement scores based on student performance on a 40-item, multiple-choice test of mathematical ability were also obtained. Each of the domains of the British Columbia mathematics curriculum were represented on the achievement test. Achievement items were also constructed at three cognitive behaviour levels: computation, comprehension, and application/problem solving. Geometry and data analysis were the two domains of the mathematics curriculum which were the focus of this work. The data relating to these topics were analyzed through the use of chi-square analysis. Matrices were designed which compared students’ perceptions of geometry and data analysis with their achievement in those domains. Each of the three components of attitude—difficulty, importance, and likeability—were treated as independent variables. Chi-square values were determined for each matrix and an analysis of the patterns exhibited by the cells was also undertaken. With one exception, each matrix had a chi-square value which was significant at the 0.0001 level. The remaining matrix was significant at the 0.001 level. An examination of the Grade 10 data indicated that a significant relationship between students’ attitudes towards geometry and data analysis and students’ achievement in those domains existed. The number of students who considered geometry or data analysis to be important, easy, or likeable and who also obtained good scores on the achievement portion of the assessment was greater than the expected value for those cells of the matrices. Likewise, the number of students who indicated that geometry or data analysis was not important, was difficult, or disliked the topic and who also obtained low achievement scores was greater than the expected value. Similar patterns were observed when students’ overall achievement in mathematics was compared with their attitudes towards data analysis and geometry. Students in Grade 7 generally achieved higher scores in the mathematics assessment and held more favourable views towards data analysis and geometry than did students in Grade 10. However, results showed that the relationship between each of the components of attitude and achievement in geometry and data analysis followed trends similar to, but not as strong as, those found for students in Grade 10. For the purposes of this study, the Grade 10 data were also separated into two groups. The data concerning students enrolled in the more challenging Mathematics 10course were compared with the data relating to students enrolled in the less difficult Mathematics 10A course. Students enrolled in the Mathematics 10 course achieved higher scores and held more positive views towards data analysis and geometry than did the students enrolled in Mathematics 10A. The relationships between each of the components of attitude studied and achievement within each of the domains, however, were similar for both groups of students.

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