Beliefs of secondary school students concerning mathematics and mathematics education

Year: 1994

Author: Southwell, Beth, Karmis, Mon

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Beliefs students hold about mathematics often appear to affect their attempts to do mathematics. The fear of failure or their lack of confidence are constraints on their performance. As well, some contextual factors inhibit understanding and enjoyment in mathematics. The way in which students perceive mathematics and learning mathematics has an impact on their success in the subject.

Following a smaller scale survey of beliefs concerning mathematics held by primary and secondary students and teachers, this study looks in more detail at a larger sample of over 2,000 secondary school students, makes further comparisons and suggests trends in beliefs of students at secondary school level.

The analysis of data is presented under several headings, including students' beliefs concerning: (i) their mathematical success and/or failure; (ii) the nature of the mathematics learned; (iii) the learning of mathematics in relation to other subjects; (iv) learning geometry; and (v) parental expectations. A further aspect of this paper is an analysis of comments written by subjects in response to open-ended questions in the same survey. An examination of the responses of students from single-sex and co-educational schools will also be attempted.

This current study confirms most of the findings from the previous study, particularly in relation to students' beliefs that mathematics is mostly facts and procedures which have to be memorised and that everything important about mathematics is already known by mathematicians.