RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN UNDERGRADUATES’ MATHEMATICS ANXIETY AND THEIR ATTITUDES TOWARDS DEVELOPING NUMERACY SKILLS AND PERCEPTIONS OF NUMERICAL COMPETENCE
University of Central Lancashire (UNITED KINGDOM)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2009 Proceedings
Publication year: 2009
Conference name: 2nd International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 16-18 November, 2009
Location: Madrid, Spain
Abstract:This paper explores how undergraduates’ mathematics anxiety influences their attitudes towards the development of numeracy skills and perceptions of their competence in the latter.
The preliminary data were obtained using an online survey that measured, among other things, undergraduates’ maths anxiety (with three sub-scales: course anxiety, task anxiety and test anxiety) and their attitudes towards numeracy skills (with four sub-scales: confidence, enjoyment, usefulness and motivation). Additionally, undergraduates were presented with a list of twenty-one numerical tasks and asked to self-evaluate their level of competence in each. Participants comprised 174 undergraduates, from four faculties at the University of Central Lancashire, UK, namely Arts, Humanities and Social Science (8%), Health and Social Care (21%), Business and Management (19%), and Science and Technology (52%). Undergraduates in the sample were studying a variety of academic subjects, but all their degree programmes incorporated some mathematical, numerical and/or statistical elements.
Correlation analyses indicated that undergraduates revealing high levels of maths anxiety tended to hold negative attitudes towards the development of numeracy skills. They lacked confidence in and the motivation to develop numeracy skills, and expressed little enjoyment of working in numeracy classes. High levels of maths anxiety and negative attitudes towards developing numeracy skills were also linked with low levels of competency in terms of students’ self-evaluation of their numeracy skills. Students possessing higher pre-university mathematics qualifications tended to exhibit lower levels of maths anxiety and greater confidence, motivation, enjoyment and competence, while younger students expressed more confidence and competence; however, the latter may have been linked to the fact that younger students tended to possess higher pre-university mathematics qualifications.
An exploration of the effects of gender revealed that male students exhibited higher levels of confidence, enjoyment, and perceptions of competency in numeracy than female students, even though no significant differences were found between male and female students in terms of their pre-university mathematics qualifications. However, although males tended to have low levels of maths course anxiety and numerical task anxiety, they were more anxious about maths tests than female students. Students’ maths anxiety, confidence, motivation and self-evaluation of numerical competence varied with academic discipline (i.e. Faculty in which they were enrolled). Science and Technology undergraduates exhibited higher motivation than those from Health and Social Care and from Business and Management; they also appeared to be more confident, believed themselves to be more numerically competent, and showed lower levels of numerical task anxiety compared with students based in Health and Social Care. This may have been linked to the fact that Science and Technology undergraduates’ pre-university mathematics qualifications were significantly higher than those of students from Health and Social Care. No significant differences were found between undergraduates from Arts, Humanities and Social Science and those from Science and Technology in terms of maths anxiety, attitudes and self-evaluation of numerical competence; perhaps because they possessed similar profiles in terms of their pre-university mathematics qualifications.
Keywords: mathematics anxiety, attitudes, numeracy skills.