The attitudes and beliefs of teachers in general are a very essential aspect of teaching and learning process. It is expected that for effective learning to be achieved, the teacher being a major stakeholder in the process, should have the right attitude towards the learners and the learning process. According to Casa et al (2007), mathematics being a very important subject for all learners requires both teachers and the learners to develop the right attitude both to the subject and the learning process. Research has been carried out by various scholars concerning the issue of attitudes and beliefs of preservice teachers towards mathematics.
Studies carried out by research according to Haladyna, (1983) , tend to reveal that there is a very close relationship between the instructions teachers give in class with their attitudes towards knowledge in mathematics. Students also have their attitudes towards mathematics manifested during the beginning of school life. It has been found through research that positive attitude changes with time as the students proceed to high school.
There are a number of things that are fundamental in understanding the attitudes of pre-school teachers towards mathematics. Cooney, et al. (1998). These factors range from the nature of students, culture, and methodology amongst many other factors. The nature of students in terms of their attitudes towards learning mathematics can prove to be influential in determining the teacher’s attitude. Research has indicated that most pre-service teachers believe that students who have a positive attitude towards mathematics score high in mathematical tests than those who have negative attitude. This has also been supported by findings that portray pre-service teachers to prefer student who score high and like mathematics than the poor performers who are associated with a lot of negativity towards mathematics. Studies have identified mathematics tasks, the role of the teacher and the classroom environment to be instrumental in determining attitudes and discourse towards mathematics. Hanrahan & Tate, (2001)
Teachers play a very significant role in the learning of mathematics. The role includes questioning the students to facilitate their thinking and comprehension of mathematical concepts. The teachers also determine in class the contributions of the students which are relevant and can be included in the agenda for mathematics. In the course of exercising this role the attitude and belief of the teacher can be assessed through the various actions. Minor, et al. (2002)
According to Wilkins, (2008), the nature of mathematical tasks to be included in the study of mathematics is also of concern. Mathematics as a science requires rigorous activities that are also important in understanding the teacher’s attitude and beliefs towards mathematics. Most of the tasks require dialogue and interaction between the teacher and the students for a better understanding of mathematics. The way the students undertake the tasks especially the rich ones is an important concern in assessing attitudes and beliefs of the teacher.
In terms of the classroom environment, mathematics teachers have the obligation to sustain an environment of intellectual development. The attitudes and beliefs of the teacher play a vital role in establishing this essential environment. When dealing with students who are weak in mathematics, teachers tend to experience a hard time in sustaining the necessary environment. This situation has been observed through studies to be influencing attitudes and behavior of teachers towards effective teaching. Content is also an important aspect in the assessment of attitudes and beliefs in the teaching of mathematics Minor, et al. (2002)
A number of researchers have mentioned the preservice teachers lack a conception of the actual content they would encounter in the classroom situation. This lack of conceptual knowledge on the content area has the effect on the attitudes and beliefs of some teachers. When new content is subjected to some teachers their attitudes towards the subject can shift either in a positive or negative direction. The ability of the teacher to disseminate mathematical knowledge effectively to the learners, conceptual knowledge of the content coverage is essential. Lowery, (2002)For a long time, there has been lack of consensus on what aspects of the curriculum are essential for effective learning. This further complicates the attitudes and beliefs of teachers towards mathematics.
The effectiveness of teaching mathematics in the classroom is a matter of concern for both the teacher and the learners. This desire to produce the best results amongst the leaner’s has been closely associated with the courses taken by teachers during preservice training. It also concerns the grades scored by the individual student teachers during their course work and the experience they posses in teaching.
Knowledge is a fundamental aspect of learning mathematics. Theorists have developed various models of learning that concern learning mathematics. According to Fennema &Franke, (1992), there are beliefs, attitudes and experiences that teachers need to digest and construct knowledge for the learners during the teaching of mathematics.
Teachers have the capacity to carry on the necessary experiences through their studies as student teachers. These experiences influence their behavior, thinking and attitude towards teaching mathematics. It is then transferred to the learners when they join their careers as mathematics teachers. The experiences teachers have in spite of influencing the teaching process, they also determine the professional development of the teachers during the various programs. Through experiences in mathematics as the subject area, teachers are able to develop strong believes especially on how well the subject should be taught effectively to impact on the learners life. (Raymond 1997)
Most researchers have confirmed that beliefs and attitudes in the teachers determine their performance in the classroom and on their learners especially in sciences and mathematics. Both positive and negative beliefs are created during preservice training with fieldwork activities and student teaching experiences. During field activities the teachers have the potential of developing professionalism and the right positive attitude towards teaching mathematics. Studies have indicated that, teachers who fail to make good use of fieldwork and student teaching might not end up with the positive attitudes and believes towards teaching mathematics. (Aiken 1970)
Preservice curriculum and practicum has been noted by researchers to be having a great impact on the preservice teachers as far as confidence levels and the right attitude is concerned. From an epistemological view point two opposing views have been presented. The absolutists argue that mathematics is taught in class with its image separate in an outside environment. On the other hand fallibilists claim that mathematics is taught with it application in a real world situation. Absolutist viewpoint tends to be associated with negativity towards mathematics. This can affect the attitude of the students. (Zacharos, Koliopoulo, Dokimaki and Kassoumi 2007)
In conclusion , it is important to mention that beliefs and attitudes towards mathematics are actually determined by the practice of teaching and experience the preservice teachers possess.
Anne M. Raymond, A. M. (1997). Inconsistency between a Beginning Elementary School Teacher’s Mathematics Beliefs and Teaching Practice. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, Vol. 28, No.5, pp. 550- 576.
Aiken, L. R., Jr. Attitudes toward mathematics. Review of Educational Research, 1970, 40, 551-596.
Casa, T. M., McGivney-Burelle, J. & DeFranco, T. C. (2007). The Development of an Instrument to Measure Preservice Teachers’ Attitudes about Discourse in the Mathematics Classroom. School science and mathematics (0036-6803), 107 (2), p. 70.
Cooney, et al. (1998). Conceptualizing belief structures of preservice secondary mathematics teachers. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 29(3), 306–333.
Fennema, E., & Franke, M. L. (1992). Teachers’ knowledge and its impact. In D. A. Grouws (Ed.), Handbook of research on mathematics teaching and learning (pp. 147–164). New York: Macmillan.
Haladyna. T, Shaughnessy, J. & Shaughnessy, M. J. (1983) A Causal Analysis of Attitude toward Mathematics Author(s): Source: Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, Vol. 14, No. 1, pp. 19-29.
Hanrahan, L., & Tate, P. (2001). Accessing/assessing the development of beliefs and knowledge about effective teaching in prospective teachers: A practical inquiry. Action in Teacher Education, 22(4), 75–85.
Lowery, N. V. (2002). Construction of teacher knowledge in context: Preparing elementary teachers to teach mathematics and science. School Science and Mathematics, 102(2), 68–83.
Minor, et al. (2002). Pre-service teachers’ educational beliefs and their perceptions of characteristics of effective teachers. The Journal of Educational Research, 96(2), 116–127.
Wilkins, J. L. (2008). The Relationship among Elementary Teachers’ Content Knowledge, Attitudes, Beliefs, and Practices. Journal of mathematics teacher education (1386-4416), 11 (2), p. 139-164.