Attitudes Matter: An Examination of the Relationship between Student Attitudes toward Mathematics and Success in Middle School Algebra 1

April Spencer, Gardner-Webb University


The United States wants its students to be globally competitive. There is a perception among school systems that encouraging eighth graders to enroll in higher level math classes beginning with Algebra 1 in middle school will help with this issue. The purpose of this study was to determine how attitude toward mathematics correlates with success for middle school students taking Algebra 1. Rarely are attitudes and feelings addressed in a mathematics classroom. Typically, the focus is on the cognitive aspect, and little attention is given to the affective domain.

This study used a quantitative design. The participants in this study were 257 students enrolled in Algebra 1 in eighth grade during the 2010-2011 school year. Five middle schools from three school systems located in the western region of North Carolina were selected. Data for this research included two instruments: the Attitudes toward Mathematics Inventory (ATMI) and the North Carolina end-of-course Algebra 1 test.

Findings from this study examined all students as well as looked at gender and the three Local Education Authorities (LEA). A positive relationship existed between not only attitude and math scores, but all subscales (self-confidence, enjoyment, motivation, and value). The subscale of value of mathematics consistently showed the lowest correlation. Some individual differences were found between LEAs.

This study suggests that attitude including the subscales from the inventory be addressed when teachers plan their curriculum. Whether using current programs available or model teachers, schools need to be willing to incorporate the affective domain into the mathematics classroom. The connection between the cognitive and the affective domains will bring the success our schools are seeking for their math students.