Attitudes to mathematics shown by students enrolled in university mathematics courses : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Mathematics at Massey University
Attitude has long been a central concept in the area of learning and academic performance. This study was designed to investigate the attitudes of undergraduates at different levels, taking different degree courses, toward value of theories, value of applications, enjoyment of theories and enjoyment of applications of mathematics. The setting of the study has been Massey University at Palmerston North, New Zealand. The subjects were 203 Students enrolled in "60.101 Algebra and Calculus", "60.203 Calculus" and "60.303 Calculus and Differential Equations". The problem was threefold: (1) The development of an instrument to assess attitudes toward value of theories, value of applications, enjoyment of theories and enjoyment of applications of mathematics. (2) To use the inventory to treasure differences in attitudes of (i) male and female students; (ii) mathematics majors and non-mathematics majors; (iii) mathematics majors at different stages. (3) To find the degree of association between the different attitude measures. A 32-item attitude instrument of Likert-type was specially developed and administered to the sample population. They were tested in the Autumn of 1980 with the instrument. A pilot study was carried out to assess the effectiveness of all measures before the actual study. The principal function of this pilot study was to assess the adequacy of the measuring instrument and the administration procedures. Using a 0.05 level of significance the results showed a difference between first year male and female students in their attitudes toward enjoyment of theories. No other significant sex-related difference or mathematics majors/non- mathematics major difference was found. Furthermore, first year mathematics majors and sccond year mathematics majors differ significantly in their attitudes toward enjoyment of theories. The attitude towards value of theories was positively and significantly correlated with attitude towards enjoyment of theories and the attitude towards value of applications was positively and significantly correlated with attitude towards enjoyment ol applications. The attitude towards value of theories was not significantly correlated with attitude towards value of applications and the attitude towards enjoyment of theories was not significantly correlated with attitude towards enjoyment of applications.