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Parents’ Attitudes Toward Mathematics and the Inﬂuence on Their

Students’ Attitudes toward Mathematics: A Quantitative Study

Margaret J. Mohr-Schroeder

University of Kentucky

Christa Jackson

Iowa State University

Maureen Cavalcanti

University of Kentucky

Cindy Jong

University of Kentucky

D. Craig Schroeder

Fayette County Public Schools

Lydia G. Speler

Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis

The purpose of this study was to investigate parents’ attitudes toward mathematics, their students’ attitude toward

mathematics, and the inﬂuence of the parents’ attitude on the students’ attitude toward mathematics. Data analyses

revealed statistically signiﬁcant positive correlations between parents’ and students’ attitudes toward mathematics.

Additionally, parents’ mathematics attitude signiﬁcantly predicted students’ attitudes toward mathematics (n5146). By

understanding the inﬂuence of parents’ attitudes on students’ attitudes toward mathematics, school efforts can be geared

toward fostering favorable attitudes toward mathematics among parents.

Many students lack interest and proﬁciency in

mathematics (Rice, Barth, Guadagno, Smith, & McCallum,

2012). In fact, 64% of eighth graders scored below proﬁcient

on the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress

[NAEP] (NAEP, 2013; President’s Council of Advisors on

Science and Technology [PCAST], 2010). Research

suggests a student’s home environment may inﬂuence their

attitude toward mathematics (Sheldon & Epstein, 2005), and

parental involvement can increase student achievement

(Areepattamannil et al., 2015; Jacobbe, Ross, & Hensberry,

2012; Kliman, 2006; Lopez & Donovan, 2009). As a result,

it is imperative that teachers involve parents in their child’s

mathematical learning (Bofferding, Kastberg, & Hoffman,

2016). Although some parents do not have the mathematical

content knowledge or pedagogical knowledge for teaching,

parents feel more competent in their mathematical ability and

interact more with their child when teachers reach out to

them (Drummond & Stipek, 2004; Jacobbe, et al., 2012).

Parental engagement and support is crucial when

students are deciding whether or not to pursue science,

technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses

(Rice et al., 2012). Fan & Chen (2001) argue parental

aspiration and expectation of their child’s achievement has

a strong relationship with academic success, which in turn

is related to their child’s attitude toward the subject. For

example, children who have high mathematics achievement

generally have parents who support their mathematical

ability and success (Fan & Chen, 2001; Henderson, Mapp,

& Southwest Educational Development Laboratory

[SEDL] National Center for Family and Community

Connections with Schools, 2002; Ingram, Wolfe, &

Lieberman, 2007; Jeynes, 2003; Kliman, 2006; Pe~

na, 2000;

Usher, 2009).

Ingram et al. (2007) claim parents generally get involved

with their child in mathematics when they have high self-

efﬁcacy toward mathematics themselves and when they feel

the school supports their involvement. Consequently, it is

important for teachers to provide opportunities for parents

to get involved and provide necessary tools for parents to

help teach their child(ren) (Drummond & Stipek, 2004;

Jacobbe et al. 2012; Sheldon & Epstein, 2005). However,

some teachers and schools usually are not aware of ways to

involve parents in such learning experiences (Ingram et al.,

2007; Sheldon & Epstein, 2005), especially when some

parents may have negative attitudes toward mathematics.

As one approach, researchers suggest family math nights

where parents, teachers, and students participate in fun,

engaging mathematical activities together that not only

provide education stimulus for students, but also prepare

parents to help their children with the material (Grant &

Ray, 2015; Ingram et al. 2007; Rice et al., 2012; Sullivan &

Hatton, 2011). The purpose of this quantitative study is

twofold. First, we examined parents’ and students’ attitudes

toward mathematics, and then we investigated how parents’

attitudes inﬂuenced their child(ren)’s attitudes toward

mathematics.

Attitudes Toward Mathematics

Attitudes, emotions, and beliefs make up the affective

domain in mathematics education (McLeod, 1992).

214 Volume 117 (5)

Attitudes involve “positive or negative feelings” (Philipp,

2007) toward an object, place, or thing. Speciﬁcally,

attitudes refer to “affective responses that involve positive

or negative feelings of moderate intensity” (McLeod, 1992,

p. 581). In other words, it is an individual’s like or dislike

toward mathematics (Hannula, 2002). We know attitudes

about mathematics develop over time (Ma & Kishor, 1997),

and teachers, peers, and parents, as well as the environment

can inﬂuence a student’s attitude. Students’ attitudes may

also be established from their self-perceived abilities, self-

efﬁcacy, or social support from teachers and parents (Akin

& Kurbanoglu, 2011; Rice et al., 2012; Rowan-Kenyon,

Swan, & Creager, 2012; Stodolsky, Salk, & Glaessner,

1991; Tapia, 1996; Usher, 2009; Wilkins & Ma, 2003).

Wilkins and Ma (2003) claim teachers’, peers’, and

parents’ positive support help students develop positive

attitudes about the social importance of mathematics. Hon

and Yeung (2005) suggest when students are surrounded by

positive inﬂuences, they will be affected in a positive way.

Environmental factors including students’ home life and

access to instructional materials as well as entertainment

measures can all have an effect on attitude and achievement

(Ames, 1992).

Parents’ Attitudes Toward Mathematics

Most parents

1

recognize the importance of being

involved in their children’s education, and they value their

learning (Drummond & Stipek, 2004; Kliman, 2006). But,

it is common that parents struggle helping their children

learn and understand mathematics. Many parents feel

inadequate helping their child(ren) with mathematics

because they are not conﬁdent in their own mathematical

ability, are unaware of the content, or do not have the

teaching skills needed to help their child (Drummond &

Stipek, 2004; Kliman, 2006; Lopez & Donovan, 2009;

Pohan & Adams, 2007; Sheldon & Epstein, 2005).

Drummond and Stipek (2004) argue parents who have low-

income status are likely to help their child more with

reading than with mathematics because they claim

mathematics is not as important to everyday life, and they

are not conﬁdent in their own mathematical ability. The

changes in the way mathematics is taught may also

contribute to this feeling of incompetency (Sheldon &

Epstein, 2005). It has been found; however, when parents

are taught how to work with their children, especially on

mathematical concepts, they develop a better attitude

toward school and the subject matter, which could inﬂuence

students’ attitudes toward mathematics (Pe~

na, 2000). In

fact, several qualitative research studies revealed a strong

link between parents’ and students’ attitudes toward

mathematics (Pedersen, Elmore, & Bleyer, 1986; Rowan-

Kenyon et al., 2012; Sheldon & Epstein, 2005). Parents

who have negative feelings toward mathematics, or who

have openly acknowledged their own mathematics

deﬁciencies tend to have children with similar attitudes

(Usher, 2009). On the other hand, parents who encourage

mathematics and mathematical thinking and have positive

feelings toward the subject tend to have children who also

enjoy it, making them more likely to succeed as well as

pursue STEM-related careers in the future (Rowan-Kenyon

et al., 2012).

Involving parents in their child’s mathematics education

may prevent the decline in students’ attitudes toward

mathematics (Sheldon & Epstein, 2005). Wilkins and Ma

(2003) suggest involving parents and students in family

math nights increases positive mathematics interactions

between parents and their child(ren), and family math

nights improves parents’ attitudes and feeling of

competence toward mathematics. Bringing together school

and family communities into one may be beneﬁcial to

students’ achievement and students’ attitudes toward

mathematics.

Students’ Attitudes Toward Mathematics

According to Rowan-Kenyon et al. (2012), students are

more likely to develop an interest in a subject if they feel

competent or have high self-efﬁcacy in that area, while they

are likely to create an aversion to subject matter when they

feel as if they will fail. Stodolsky et al. (1991) conducted a

study with 60 ﬁfth-grade students and found that

mathematics was considered one of the hardest subjects.

Contrary to other subjects, students’ attitudes toward

mathematics were based off their achievement rather than

their interest. Similar to Usher’s (2009) ﬁndings, students’

negative attitudes were attributed to failure, feelings of

difﬁculty, and frustration with the subject matter. Most

students in Stodolsky, Salk, and Glaessner’s (1991) study

reported they did not believe they could learn mathematics

on their own, but needed guidance from a teacher or parent,

unlike social studies in which most students reported they

could teach themselves. Researchers report students’

attitude toward mathematics is a good indicator of their

success in the subject, with positive attitudes leading

toward higher achievement (Akin & Kurbanoglu, 2011;

Tapia, 1996; Thorndike-Christ, 1991; Wilkins & Ma,

2003).

Students’ attitudes toward mathematics generally decline

when students enter middle school, but remain steady

during their high school years (Aiken, 1970; Rice et al.,

2012; Hannula, 2002; Stodolsky et al., 1991; Wilkins &

Parents’ Attitudes Toward Mathematics

215School Science and Mathematics

Ma, 2003). Although students’ attitudes may decrease over

time, Ma and Xu (2004) reported an increase in mean

achievement across time. The researchers analyzed the

Longitudinal Study for American Youth (LSAY) data for

students in grades 7–12 and found that even though

students’ attitudes decreased, they still performed well.

Therefore, it is possible that attitude does not affect

achievement, or attitude and achievement may be inversely

related.

Students who value and enjoy mathematics generally

have a higher level of achievement (Gottfried, 1985).

However, poor mathematics achievement has been linked

to a decline in students’ attitude toward mathematics (Ma &

Xu, 2004). During elementary school, students are

introduced to concepts slowly and repetitively, resulting in

positive attitudes and achievement for most students. As the

material gets more diverse and abstract, students’ attitudes

and achievement levels begin to decline (Hiebert et al.,

2003). Students’ prior attitude has an effect on later attitude,

and students’ prior achievement has an effect on later

achievement, with the effect of prior achievement being

stronger (Ma & Xu, 2004). Students’ prior achievement

predicted later attitude for grades 7–12. However, prior

attitude did not predict later achievement (Ma & Xu, 2004).

Therefore, achievement leads to a positive attitude, but a

positive attitude does not necessarily lead to achievement.

While this study argues a one-sided effect, several

researchers conclude attitude and achievement inﬂuence

one another in a cyclical fashion (e.g., Schiefele &

Csikszentmihalyi, 1995). For example, Maple and Stage

(1991) argue students’ attitude toward mathematics, not

achievement in mathematics, was a statistically signiﬁcant

predictor of selecting a mathematics major. On the other

hand, achievement at the middle school level determines

the curricular choices of students in higher-level

mathematics (Singh, Granville, & Dika, 2002).

It is not only personal achievement that affects a

student’s mathematics attitude, but social support also has a

great impact. According to Rice et al. (2012), middle school

students are put into more ability grouped classes and have

less support from their teachers who tend to think students

cannot succeed, especially in lower-performing classes.

This could account for part of the decline of students’ self-

efﬁcacy, and in turn, their attitudes toward mathematics.

Students receiving more positive support from teachers and

parents tend to have more positive attitudes in mathematics

(Maloney, Ramirez, Gunderson, Levin, & Beilock, 2015;

Rice et al., 2012; Wilkins & Ma, 2003).

The decline in the middle school years could be due to

students’ negative perception of the social importance of

mathematics as they are less likely to see a connection

between what they are learning in mathematics and their

everyday life (Gilroy, 2002; Rowan-Kenyon et al., 2012;

Wilkins & Ma, 2003). However, it has been noted that

middle school students’ attitudes toward mathematics is

highly related to their mathematics achievement (Aiken,

1970; Pedersen et al., 1986), and that attitudes toward the

subject inﬂuences the number of mathematics courses they

will take in high school and college (Gilroy, 2002). If

students’ attitudes toward mathematics can improve, it

would in turn inﬂuence their achievement and interest in

pursuing a STEM-related ﬁeld (Gilroy, 2002; Rice et al.,

2012).

While there have been several studies that regarded

parents’ attitudes toward mathematics as important and

even some suggesting it has an effect on students’ attitudes

toward mathematics (Pedersen et al., 1986; Rowan-Kenyon

et al., 2012; Sheldon & Epstein, 2005; Usher, 2009), little

has been done quantitatively where parents participate

directly. Student attitude scales have been developed and

validated to measure student perceptions of parent attitudes,

among other factors of student attitudes (Fennema &

Sherman, 1976; Khine & Afari, 2014; Ngurah & Lynch,

2013; Tapia, 1996). Previous studies have largely used

qualitative data collection and analysis to make a

connection between parents’ and students’ attitudes toward

mathematics or used quantitative data reported by their

child(ren) to quantify their parents’ attitude. These studies

rely largely on students’ perception [emphasis added] of

parental support, expectation or attitudes toward

mathematics (Asante, 2012; Mata, Monteiro, & Peixoto,

2012; Rice et al., 2012).

Maloney, Ramirez, Gunderson, Levine, and Beilock

(2015) quantitatively studied the relationship between a

parent’s mathematics anxiety and what effect it had on their

elementary (grades 1 and 2) student’s achievement. This is

the only known quantitative study that directly surveyed

parent’s mathematics anxiety or attitudes. In order to

continue to investigate parents’ attitudes toward

mathematics and make stronger linkages regarding parents’

inﬂuence on students’ attitudes toward mathematics, there

is a need for quantitative connections as well.

Methods

This project utilized a quantitative survey design in order

to answer the following research questions: What are

parents’ and students’ attitudes toward mathematics?

How do parents’ attitudes inﬂuence their child(ren)’s

attitudes toward mathematics?

Parents’ Attitudes Toward Mathematics

216 Volume 117 (5)

We were interested in gaining a better indication of

parents’ attitudes toward mathematics and what kind of

inﬂuence, if any, their attitudes had on their child(ren)’s

attitudes.

Participants and Context

Convenience sampling was utilized to collect data from

468 adults and 770 students for seven years (2008–2015) at

Family Math Night (FMN) events at multiple area

elementary (grades K–5) and middle (grades 6–8) schools

in a large urban school district in the upper south central

region of the United States. A Family Math Night (FMN) is

an event where students, their families, and the community

come together for a night to have fun exploring content,

activities, and games that support mathematical learning.

FMNs are open to all families of students at the school site

as well as the surrounding community. The school takes

exhaustive recruitment measures to boost participation of

families, including informational ﬂyers and phone calls

prior to the event, and transportation for families in need the

evening of the event. Parents are asked to RSVP in order

for the school to estimate the amount of food needed for the

event. The phone calls are made to families who do not turn

in RSVPs and reminder phone calls are made to families of

underrepresented populations, particularly students of

color, low socioeconomic status, and low-achieving

students. While the schools encourage all families to attend,

it is acknowledged families who do choose to attend may

have a positive bias toward mathematics.

Data/Instrumentation

The surveys used for the current study were adapted from

the Attitudes Toward Mathematics Inventory (ATMI;

Tapia, 1996). ATMI was ﬁrst administered to students at a

private high school, and four-factors (self-conﬁdence,

value, enjoyment, motivation) were identiﬁed using

exploratory factor analysis (EFA) techniques. Conﬁrmatory

factor analyses (CFA) have been performed in subsequent

studies (Afari, 2013; Khine & Afari, 2014; Ngurah &

Lynch, 2013), with results supporting instrument validation

in different settings, including the setting of interest in the

current study—middle grade students. Tapia and Marsh

(2002) found the same four-factor model from the original

validation (Tapia, 1996) held for the college students

enrolled in mathematics courses. ATMI has also been

applied to the middle school grades (Ke, 2008; Tapia &

Marsh, 2000). Other efforts to develop shorter surveys

using ATMI have also been done (Lim & Chapman, 2013).

The items adapted for the Parent Attitudes Toward

Mathematics (PATM) and Brief Student Attitudes Toward

Mathematics (BSATM) from ATMI were considered as a

global measure for attitudes toward mathematics for this

study, represented by a composite score used throughout

the analysis. The additional factors were intentionally not

considered because a single variable was determined to be

reasonable as an overall measure of attitude.

Parent survey. The Parent Attitudes Toward

Mathematics (PATM) survey is a 24-item, 5-point Likert

scale survey (strongly disagree !strongly agree; neutral

category) intended to measure a single construct of

mathematics attitude. Example statements from the survey

include:

• I do not like people to think I am smart in math.

• During math class, I was interested.

• I use math in some way every day.

• I feel conﬁdent when I help my child with math.

• It is okay if my child gets below a C in math.

The survey took parents approximately 5–8 minutes to

complete. The Flesch Reading Ease was 96.3 and the

Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level was 1.6 indicating all English-

speaking adults should be able to understand the statements

in the survey. Due to the nature of the events and to the

limited amount of time available for participants to answer

the survey, demographic information was not collected.

The PATM was ﬁrst assessed for reliability using

Cronbach’s alpha for the instrument overall, a5.963,

indicating a very high reliability. Principal components

analysis (PCA) was conducted on the PATM survey to

assess for dimensionality and data reduction, thus

supporting construct validity of the instrument. The ﬁrst

component explained 55.621% of the total variance. While

three factors were extracted, PCA results suggested a single

factor is reasonable. The eigenvalues corresponding to each

of the three factors extracted were 13.349, 2.326, and

1.095, respectively. As the ratio of the ﬁrst eigenvalue to

the second eigenvalue is larger than three (Embretson &

Reise, 2000) and, by more restrictive, earlier

recommendations exceeds four (Lord, 1980), the use of a

single factor is supported. The loadings garnered further

support for a single measure of parents’ attitude being

represented by the instrument. The loadings for all of the

items on the ﬁrst component were salient (>0.3; Klein,

1994/2000). Where items loaded saliently on a second

factor, the loading was stronger on the ﬁrst component.

Student survey. While there are several attitudes

toward mathematics surveys available (Chamberlin, 2010),

the researchers needed an instrument that could be taken by

elementary and middle school students in 3–5 minutes.

Therefore, the research team administered the Brief Student

Attitudes Toward Mathematics (BSATM) survey. The

BSATM is a 6-item, 4 point Likert scale survey (strongly

disagree !strongly agree; no neutral category) that

Parents’ Attitudes Toward Mathematics

217School Science and Mathematics

measures students’ attitude toward mathematics. Statements

from the survey included:

• I like math.

• Math is boring.

• I do not like people to think I am smart in math.

The Flesch Reading Ease of the BSATM was 100 and

the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level was 0.5 indicating all

English-speaking school children should be able to

understand the statements in the survey. Due to the nature

of the Family Math Night and to the limited amount of time

available for participants to answer the survey,

demographic information was not collected.

The BSATM survey was ﬁrst assessed for reliability

using Cronbach’s alpha, a5.86, indicating a high

reliability (Nunnally, 1978). The BSATM was then

assessed for dimensionality and data reduction to ensure the

validity of the instrument. A principal components analysis

of residual explained 60.475% of the total variance in the

measure, which ﬁt the expected results.

Data collection. Both surveys were administered during

FMNs (described above) at a booth for the students and a

booth for the parents. The survey was administered on

paper the ﬁrst two years. Thereafter, the survey was given

online using ﬁrst a secure Moodle platform, and then

migrating to Google Forms. Paper copies continued to be

used at schools where internet access was unavailable. The

survey administration was closely monitored for each event

to minimize any outside people accessing the survey. There

was only one instance of a nonfamily math night participant

taking the survey and it was removed.

Efforts were made to get parents to participate. For

example, incentives were provided for both the parents and

the students to take the survey. The parents were entered

into a drawing for prizes geared toward parents including,

coffee mugs, gift cards to restaurants, massages, and so

forth. The students received a stamp on their booth sheet

(they had opportunities to collect stamps from all the booths

at the event) and they turned in their stamped booth sheet at

the end of the event to be entered into a drawing for

educational door prizes. Food and water was provided for

parents and students at the events.

Data Analysis

The project utilized a quantitative survey design to

answer the following research questions: What are parents’

and students’ attitudes toward mathematics? How do

parents’ attitudes inﬂuence their child(ren)’s attitudes

toward mathematics? Survey data analyses were carried out

with SPSS 21.0, a software package used for organizing

data, conducting statistical analyses, and generating tables

and graphs that summarize data. All cases were originally

included in the data set. No cases were removed. Missing

scores of the cases were imputed (mode for a given item) in

line with Hox’s (2010) discussion and the assumption that

parents and students who took each survey were

representative of the population of interest, respectively.

The data analyses involved several steps. First,

descriptive statistics were applied to analyze overall item

response percentages and note any possible trends in

responses. Next, we used one-tailed Pearson correlations to

examine the relationships between students’ attitudes

toward mathematics and parents’ attitudes toward

mathematics. Lastly, a single predictor regression model

was created to examine the extent to which the parents’

attitude toward mathematics predicted their child(ren)’s

attitudes toward mathematics.

Results

To examine the inﬂuence of parents’ attitude toward

mathematics on students’ attitudes toward mathematics,

cases were matched by names given on the survey—parents

provided the student(s)’ name(s), and students provided

their parents’ names. It was optional to provide names on

each of the surveys. There were eight cases in which two

parents from the same family responded to the survey and

had only one student’s response. The students’ responses

for the eight cases were replicated and matched with the

other parent’s responses, creating 146 matched cases.

Parents’ Attitudes Toward Mathematics Survey

Overall, parents displayed favorable attitudes toward

mathematics. All except one item yielded an average of at

least three on a ﬁve-point scale. In the context of the scale

responses, this means parents either did not know, agreed,

or strongly agreed. For 5 of the 24 items, the average was at

least four, indicating an average response of agree. The

mean and standard deviation for all parents’ attitudes are

presented in Table 1.

The skewness (–.667) and kurtosis (.061) were within the

normal distribution range of 21.0 to 1.0 (Huck, 2012) for

the distribution of mean parents’ attitude score for parents

who we matched data with their child(ren) (Figure 1).

Table 1

Descriptive Statistics of Parent and Student Attitudes Toward Mathematics

(n 5146)

Mean Standard Deviation

Student Attitude 3.244 0.535

Parent Attitude 3.989 0.684

Parents’ Attitudes Toward Mathematics

218 Volume 117 (5)

Brief Student Attitudes Toward Mathematics Survey

The overall mean of the students’ attitudes was 3.244 and

themodewas3.17(n5146). Even though the distribution

was slightly negatively skewed (skewness 5–.641;

kurtosis 5.389), the skewness and kurtosis were within the

normal distribution (Figure 2).

Relationship Between Parent and Student Attitudes

Toward Mathematics

To examine the relationship between parents’ attitudes

toward mathematics and their child(ren)’s attitude toward

mathematics, we applied correlation and regression

techniques to the 146 matched cases. Table 2 displays

Pearson correlation results of the parent survey and the

student survey. The parents’ survey scales showed

statistically signiﬁcant positive correlations with the

student’s attitude survey. The parents’ attitude toward

mathematics was positively correlated to students’ attitudes

toward mathematics (r5.237, p50.002).

We ran a one predictor regression using the parents’

attitude as the independent variable and student’s attitude as

the dependent variable. Parents’ and students’ attitude

scores were calculated by computing the mean score of all

items for parents and students. We obtained the following

model: ^

y5:185x12:506, where ^

yis the predicted mean

student attitude score, and xis mean parent attitude score.

For each additional point toward parents’ attitude toward

math, we can expect students’ attitude to increase by .185

points on average (approximately 1/5 of a point). Although

the range of parents’ attitude scores is 1–5, we can loosely

interpret the intercept, where a parent’s attitude score of 0

would indicate the absence of a parent’s attitude score. In

this scenario, we can expect a student’s attitude to be 2.506,

which would be a neutral, neither favorable nor unfavorable

attitude toward mathematics.

The results from the single predictor model were

statistically signiﬁcant [R

2

5.056; F58.547; p5.004],

where 5.6% of the variation in students’ attitude can be

explained by the variation in parents’ attitude. Although

small, the variation is not unexpected. We hypothesize that

by looking at subscales for parents’ attitude and making

changes to our instrument, we will better understand details

of how parent attitudes toward mathematics predicts

student attitudes toward mathematics. Ultimately although,

we do not expect the effect size to increase drastically

considering the numerous other factors that inﬂuence

student attitudes toward math (e.g., self-efﬁcacy, anxiety,

social supports, experiences at school and home). For

example, Mata et al. (2012) performed hierarchical analysis

using structural equation modeling and found student

background alone (gender, grade achievement) yielded an

R

2

5.089, but when combined with motivation, and then

when background and motivation were combined with

support (teacher and peers), the effect size increased to

R

2

5.402 and R

2

5.643, respectively.

Figure 2. Histogram of Student Math Attitudes Scale (n5146).

Table 2

Pearson Correlations between Parent Survey and Student Survey (n 5146)

Scale 1 2

1. Student math attitude 1

2. Parent math attitude .237* 1

*Correlation is statistically signiﬁcant at the p<0.01 level (1-

tailed).

Figure 1. Histogram of Parent Attitudes (n5146).

Parents’ Attitudes Toward Mathematics

219School Science and Mathematics

Discussion, Conclusions, and Implications

“A student’s attitude is the most important factor in

success” (Tapia, 1996, p. 12). The purpose of this

quantitative study was to investigate parents’ attitudes

toward mathematics, their students’ attitude toward

mathematics, and the inﬂuence of the parents’ attitude on

the student’s attitude within a single environment, Family

Math Nights. While qualitative connections between the

two have been made previously (e.g., Usher, 2009),

quantitative studies to date investigating this relationship

have been minimal (Maloney et al., 2015).

Overall, parents’ displayed highly favorable responses.

However, parents who make an effort to attend Family

Math Nights could have more positive attitudes toward

mathematics. Or, they could participate in Family Math

Nights because they see the value for their child(ren). We

will not be able to speak to motivation to attend Family

Math Nights without further understanding the attitudes

themselves. The use of subscales in subsequent data

collection, we hypothesize, will deepen understanding of

the inﬂuence of interest. We have begun exploring those

subscales, using the six subscales of the ATMI, as the

starting point.

Although the effect size of parent attitude, measured

using the PATM, is small, these results are still encouraging

and conﬁrm previous studies indicating a connection

between parent and student attitudes toward mathematics

(Maloney et al., 2015; Pedersen et al., 1986; Rowan-

Kenyon et al., 2012; Sheldon & Epstein, 2005; Usher,

2009). The lower positive correlations and unaccounted for

variance could be due to the smaller sample size (n5146

matched cases).

There are a number of possible limitations to this study

related to sampling procedures and the population of

interest. Potential biases that arise from convenience

sampling strategies could include repeated cases across

survey administrations. While this is possible for individual

parent and student data, the matched parent and student

data (n5146) were unique in this study. The FMN itself

could confound results related to effect size of parent

attitudes in predicting student attitudes. For instance,

readers may think about how participation in FMN could

impact parents’ responses. While this concern may be

plausible for items such as “I like math” where participation

in math activities during FMN could result in some change

in response; other items such as “I do not feel comfortable

helping my child(ren) with math homework” (item 25), “I

use math in some way every day” (item 17) and “taking

math was a waste of time” (item 7) were designed to

account for parents’ attitude beyond a single instance.

However, small changes in responses for some items would

not reﬂect a larger change in composite scores.

Future Research Directions

The purpose of this research was to determine whether

parent attitudes toward mathematics impact student

attitudes toward mathematics among middle grades

students. While additional validity assessment is needed in

order to observe the capabilities of the instruments, this

research provided a preliminary investigation into how

quantitative methods could be used to understand attitudes

toward mathematics. The methods applied in this research

could be applied to future research in coordination with

psychometric techniques to provide further evidence of

validation that would strengthen how the results of this

research are interpreted and applied by educational

researchers. Subsequent research should focus on how the

subscales can be used to identify unique contribution of

different factors in explaining the impact of parent attitude

on student attitude. Additional data collection should

continue, especially in collecting matched cases for parent

and student responses.

Conclusions and Implications

Many students come to school with a negative attitude

toward mathematics. This is compounded as they go

through the grade levels into more challenging mathematics

(Rowan-Kenyon et al., 2012). Many of these attitudes stem

from their parents (Maloney et al., 2015) and elementary

teachers who themselves are afraid of mathematics and/or

have a negative attitude toward it. As students’ progress

through the grade levels, they may come across inﬂuential

ﬁgures who dislike mathematics, increasing students’

negativity toward mathematics. Most of the time, the

negative attitude is simply because the students have told

themselves they cannot do mathematics; they are never

going to use it anyways; and so forth. School-based factors

are compounded when they are reinforced at home, such as

parents’ negative attitudes toward mathematics. With the

introduction and implemented use of standards-based

curricula, many parents have become more resistant to

mathematics. Much of this is because they do not understand

how and why mathematics is being taught currently.

It is important to open communication barriers between

parents and teachers about mathematical content, which can

then help students succeed in mathematics, and in turn,

support the creation of positive interactions that foster

positive attitudes (Drummond & Stipek, 2004; Lopez &

Donovan, 2009; Sheldon & Epstein, 2005). The perceived

support from parents and teachers has a large effect on

Parents’ Attitudes Toward Mathematics

220 Volume 117 (5)

career-related outcomes for middle school students,

especially in mathematics and the sciences (Rowan-Kenyon

et al., 2012). We know early interest in STEM subjects,

especially among middle school students, results in an

increase desire to persist and persevere in mathematical

tasks (Rowan-Kenyon et al., 2012). It is important to open

communication between parents and teachers and allow

parents to learn speciﬁc strategies/activities to help their

child with mathematics at home (Bofferding et al., 2016;

Drummond & Stipek, 2004; Jacobbe et al., 2012). By

helping foster favorable parental attitudes toward

mathematics, parents can become a more positive inﬂuence

on their child(ren)’s mathematical attitude, which can

increase students’ achievement and interest in mathematics.

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Acknowledgments

This project was partially funded by the Kentucky Center for

Mathematics from 2011 to 2013 and by the National Science

Foundation from 2013 to current under Grant No. 1348281.

Any opinions, ﬁndings, and conclusions or recommendations

expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not

necessarily reﬂect the views of the National Science Founda-

tion or the Kentucky Center for Mathematics. The authors

greatly acknowledge the support of all faculty, staff, adminis-

trators and preservice and in-service teachers who helped make

the Family Math Nights, and this data collection, a reality.

Authors’ Notes

Correspondence regarding this article should be sent to

Margaret Mohr-Schroeder, University of Kentucky, 105 TEB,

Lexington, KY 40506-0001 or email: m.mohr@uky.edu

1

For consistency, child(ren) and parents will be used

throughout the article. However, the researchers recognize

that there are situations where students have guardians

different from their parents.

Parents’ Attitudes Toward Mathematics

222 Volume 117 (5)