An Investigation of beliefs and attitudes of high school students in the Solomon Islands towards learning mathematics
Kele, A. (2014). An Investigation of beliefs and attitudes of high school students in the Solomon Islands towards learning mathematics (Thesis, Master of Education (MEd)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/10289/8708
Permanent Research Commons link: http://hdl.handle.net/10289/8708
Mathematics is omnipresent in all walks of life in our society. For instance, every day, citizens all over the world are faced with a complex array of mathematics–from mathematics of business and employment to risks of household accidents. A knowledge of mathematics is needed to solve problems that are encountered in our everyday life. However, in reality, most people in general, and students in particular, dislike mathematics. Researchers had revealed that the majority of secondary school students in western countries find mathematics difficult because of their negative beliefs and attitudes. Research is needed that gives specific attention to beliefs and attitudes in the Pacific Islands. My study investigated the beliefs and attitudes of high school students in the Solomon Islands towards learning mathematics. Students from two year-12 senior national high schools were selected for the study. Two overarching paradigms that set the conceptual framework for this study were positivism and interpretivism. Research data were obtained through a mixed-method approach. A survey instrument was designed to explore students’ beliefs and attitudes towards learning mathematics. Focus group interviews were conducted with some students to solicit factors that impacted on their beliefs and attitudes. To explore factors students thought had affected their mathematics achievement, semi-structured interviews were conducted. Frequency percentage and thematic analysis were used to analyse data. Findings from the written survey revealed that students were very positive about learning mathematics. They seemed to believe that knowing and doing mathematics required logical thinking and applying mathematics procedures. They highly regarded the utility of mathematics in school and the practicality of it in everyday life. They were very optimistic about their self-efficacy in mathematics learning; for instance, 96% of the students thought they were confident in learning mathematics. Students’ attitudes toward mathematics were both positive and negative. Students who demonstrated positive attitudes tended to enjoy and learn effectively when they clearly understood mathematics well. Conversely, students with negative attitudes usually put less effort into their learning process. Most students disliked learning mathematics because it was difficult. Mathematics anxiety was ascertained as contributing negative beliefs and attitudes towards students’ mathematics learning. Interesting findings were revealed in semi-structured and focus group interviews. Data from semi-structured interviews revealed that students’ beliefs about the nature of mathematics reflected on the aspects of mathematical content, mathematical processes, cognitive processes and the utility of mathematics. Furthermore, a major contributing factor that affected students’ mathematics achievement was the teacher. Additionally, students’ poor mathematical background was an area of concern that affected mathematics achievement. Focus group data revealed three key factors that impacted on students’ beliefs and attitudes. These are students themselves, teachers and peer groups. Considering the findings of this study, there is a need to advocate students’ affective domain in teaching and learning of mathematics. It is recommended to put more attention on students’ mathematics learning to provide an avenue by which teachers might better support them in nurturing their beliefs and attitudes and, in turn, enhance their mathematics achievement.
University of Waikato
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