Significance of the study
Attitudes and beliefs form a very important aspect of teaching and learning mathematics. Uncovering the unknown truths about preservice teacher’s attitudes and beliefs towards mathematics is a major step towards catering to the changing needs of students in mathematics. A number of studies have been carried out in the past on attitudes and beliefs towards mathematics but it is important to underscore that most of them have addressed few factors on attitudes and beliefs.
With globalization, the needs for education are changing and focus is being put on incorporating the needs of students from all parts of the world in education planning and development. This study is relevant as far as the development of a curriculum that can address the needs of international students seeking to study and benefit from mathematics. For this to be achieved, there has to be a move towards internationalizing courses to reach out to the needs of the majority of students. ( Australian Education International 2009)
The information gathered in this study would be fundamental in the design of a model that would include factors that determine attitudes and beliefs towards mathematics. As indicated by Peelo and Luxon (2007, p. 69), this would be instrumental in the design of courses that would be tailored to meeting the learning needs of individual students from different parts of the world. All this can be attained through taking into consideration the affective and human components of learning, recognizing the social constructs of learning, and utilizing opportunities that exist in international learning environments.
For it to achieve the desired objectives, the instructional practice of mathematics as a subject requires the incorporation of attitudes and beliefs that are indeed influential not only to the teachers but also to the learners. This study would make a significant contribution towards the anticipated change in the instructional practice of mathematics. Instructional practice should be designed in such a way that the achievements in mathematics can be realized. Beliefs and attitudes play a very important role in influencing achievements. They should be therefore put into consideration when designing the instructional practice, especially for the preservice teachers.
Essentially, this study would be very useful for educators to design mathematics as a subject in such a way that it meets the needs of a cross-section of learners. This would be after careful consideration of attitudes and beliefs of students from different cultural backgrounds towards mathematics. The study would also pay attention to the most critical factors that influence the attitudes and beliefs of students towards mathematics. From this background, the necessary changes can be initiated so as to make the study of mathematics not only enjoyable to the learners but also achieve great results.
A number of limitations have been cited in this study. First of all, it is important to mention that the study focused on articles published after 1996. This is a limitation in the sense that for the last 12 years there must have been changes in preservice teacher’s attitudes and believes towards mathematics. Some of the factors therefore might not be relevant in specific countries. This can be attributed to the varying needs of learners between different countries. The environments for learning are also not the same in different countries. The study has therefore not taken into account the current state of affairs because of the approach that was adopted.
Secondly, as noted earlier, the purpose of the study is to identify the factors that influence attitudes and beliefs by pre-service teachers towards mathematics achievement and instructional practice. In view of this, it is important to maintain that the results and findings of the study cannot be restricted to a particular country or context. This means that it can be a challenge in the course of implementation in specific country settings bearing the existing cultural differences.
Categorically, the six factors mentioned and discussed in this paper have been selected from the articles. However, it is important to note that these factors are not necessarily the most crucial in determining the attitudes and beliefs of preservice teachers towards mathematics. With the changing educational setting and cultural backgrounds, many other factors are likely to be behind the attitudes and beliefs towards mathematics. There is also a possibility that the crucial factors would keep on varying from one country to another. This situation is a limitation because the exact factors that influence attitudes and beliefs cannot be accurately identified.
Another limitation in this study concerns the selection process of the articles that have been utilized in the study. There is a possibility that there might have been some bias with most of the studies being undertaken in a specific country. This is a limitation in the sense that the factors that influence attitudes and beliefs might be different by far between different countries in the world.
Finally, by virtue of the fact that this study has employed an analysis of a considerable number of articles that are related to attitudes and beliefs of preservice teachers towards mathematics, there is a challenge in incorporating all the articles into the findings of the study. There are no specific criteria as to the contribution of each article to the final results of the study. Besides even though there was an effort to make use of many studies in this research there is a high possibility that the most relevant studies were not included in the findings of this research.
In accordance with the objectives of the study, the thirty articles presented in table 1 were analyzed to identify the factors that influence attitudes and beliefs of preservice teachers towards mathematics.
The factors that influence attitudes and beliefs towards mathematics
Each of the selected articles was carefully studied to identify the important variables that influence attitudes and beliefs towards mathematics. Additionally, the moderating factors that shape attitudes and beliefs were also noted. This information was captured in table 2 which appears in the appendix. The findings given in table 2 are represented in figure 1. The numbers given in figure 1 represent the article number which is given in table 1.
Six factors that most authors emphasized in their research studies that determine attitudes and beliefs towards mathematics have been discussed in this study. These factors are anxiety, confidence, achievement, instructional practice, knowledge, and past experience.
The study noted that there is a relationship between anxiety and attitude. According to most of the articles anxiety made a significant contribution to the attitude of preservice teachers towards mathematics. Confidence was also observed to be playing a role towards attitude. The studies made revelations on how levels of confidence in preservice teachers have shaped their attitudes towards mathematics. (Cooney et al, 1998)
The approach towards instructional practice is a very important aspect of the training of the preservice teachers and it is has a close association with the attitudes and beliefs of the teachers towards mathematics. Different teachers with their varying approaches to instructional practice exhibit different attitudes and beliefs according to the studies.
The study further found out that there is a strong relation between achievement and attitudes and believes towards mathematics. This tends to be evident in both the teachers and the students. Teachers who have strong beliefs and a positive attitude towards mathematics tend to achieve better results in the classroom than those who have weak beliefs and negative attitudes towards mathematics. Goulding, (2007).
Past experiences have proved to be having an influence on attitudes towards mathematics according to the articles. This has been known to affect the behavior of teachers and students towards the subject and even influenced their achievement. Self-esteem has been shown to be a very important component of an individual’s attitude. People with different self-images show different attitudes towards subjects like mathematics. The study has also demonstrated that lack of knowledge has a lot of contribution towards an individual’s attitude towards mathematics. Mostly the student teachers who lack adequate knowledge in mathematics have a negative attitude towards mathematics according to the findings in the articles. (Morrisey, 2006).
Finally, the study has managed to uncover and shed light on the relationship between attitude and belief. That most attitudes of individuals are influenced by their beliefs towards the subject. Positive or negative attitudes towards mathematics can be attributed to the beliefs held by individuals over mathematics.
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