Early years teachers’ attitudes towards mathematics

Sweeting, Kylie (2011) Early years teachers’ attitudes towards mathematics. Masters by Research thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Worldwide, there is considerable attention to providing a supportive mathematics learning environment for young children because attitude formation and achievement in these early years of schooling have a lifelong impact. Key influences on young children during these early years are their teachers. Practising early years teachers‟ attitudes towards mathematics influence the teaching methods they employ, which in turn, affects young students‟ attitudes towards mathematics, and ultimately, their achievement. However, little is known about practising early years teachers‟ attitudes to mathematics or how these attitudes form, which is the focus of this study. The research questions were: 1. What attitudes do practising early years teachers hold towards mathematics? 2. How did the teachers‟ mathematics attitudes form? This study adopted an explanatory case study design (Yin, 2003) to investigate practising early years teachers‟ attitudes towards mathematics and the formation of these attitudes. The research took place in a Brisbane southside school situated in a middle socio-economic area. The site was chosen due to its accessibility to the researcher. The participant group consisted of 20 early years teachers. They each completed the Attitude Towards Mathematics Inventory (ATMI) (Schackow, 2005), which is a 40 item instrument that measures attitudes across the four dimensions of attitude, namely value, enjoyment, self-confidence and motivation. The teachers‟ total ATMI scores were classified according to five quintiles: strongly negative, negative, neutral, positive and strongly positive. The results of the survey revealed that these teachers‟ attitudes ranged across only three categories with one teacher classified as strongly positive, twelve teachers classified as positive and seven teachers classified as neutral. No teachers were identified as having negative or strongly negative attitudes. Subsequent to the surveys, six teachers with a breadth of attitudes were selected from the original cohort to participate in open-ended interviews to investigate the formation of their attitudes. The interview data were analysed according to the four dimensions of attitudes (value, enjoyment, self-confidence, motivation) and three stages of education (primary, secondary, tertiary). Highlighted in the findings is the critical impact of schooling experiences on the formation of student attitudes towards mathematics. Findings suggest that primary school experiences are a critical influence on the attitudes of adults who become early years teachers. These findings also indicate the vital role tertiary institutions play in altering the attitudes of preservice teachers who have had negative schooling experiences. Experiences that teachers indicated contributed to the formation of positive attitudes in their own education were games, group work, hands-on activities, positive feedback and perceived relevance. In contrast, negative experiences that teachers stated influenced their attitudes were insufficient help, rushed teaching, negative feedback and a lack of relevance of the content. These findings together with the literature on teachers‟ attitudes and mathematics education were synthesized in a model titled a Cycle of Early Years Teachers’ Attitudes Towards Mathematics. This model explains positive and negative influences on attitudes towards mathematics and how the attitudes of adults are passed on to children, who then as adults themselves, repeat the cycle by passing on attitudes to a new generation. The model can provide guidance for practising teachers and for preservice and inservice education about ways to foster positive influences to attitude formation in mathematics and inhibit negative influences. Two avenues for future research arise from the findings of this study both relating to attitudes and secondary school experiences. The first question relates to the resilience of attitudes, in particular, how an individual can maintain positive attitudes towards mathematics developed in primary school, despite secondary school experiences that typically have a negative influence on attitude. The second question relates to the relationship between attitudes and achievement, specifically, why secondary students achieve good grades in mathematics despite a lack of enjoyment, which is one of the dimensions of attitude.

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ID Code: 46123
Item Type: QUT Thesis (Masters by Research)
Supervisor: Diezmann, Carmel, Heirdsfield, Ann, & Fox, Jillian
Keywords: teacher attitude, early years, mathematics, practising teachers, case study
Divisions: Past > Research Centres > Office of Education Research
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 23 Sep 2011 02:35
Last Modified: 21 Jun 2017 14:45

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