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Parents’ Attitudes Toward Mathematics and the Influence on Their Students’ Attitudes toward Mathematics: A Quantitative Study: Parents’ Attitudes Toward Mathematics


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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 (n=146). 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.
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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
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
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
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,
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
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.,
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
5.402 and R
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-
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
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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:
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)
... This is in line with acknowledged levers for reducing inequality through compensatory practices in the school (OECD, 2018), and a wider call for attending to so-called non-cognitive factors to promote student growth (Kautz et al., 2014). Parallel attention could be paid to the potential role of parental attitudes in mediating the SES effect on motivation by improving parental involvement and informing and motivating parents for supporting their children's self-concept and motivation for math (Mohr-Schroeder et al., 2017), yet this requires care and effort due to parental skepticism and resistance (Jay et al., 2018). ...
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Using data collected from 4329 students in the 2015 iteration of the Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), we explore two mediators for the relationship between socioeconomic status (SES) and TIMSS-results in mathematics among Norwegian fifth graders. First, we explore how the students’ motivation and self-concept mediate the relationship between SES and test results. Second, by using parent reported SES resources and the parents’ attitudes to school and the tested subjects, we examine how these may constitute a path through which their children’s motivation and family SES are related to mathematics achievement. We found that students’ self-concept accounted for a small but statistically significant portion of SES effects on achievement. Intrinsic motivation did not mediate any of the SES effects on achievement, nor did parental attitudes account for any of the association between SES and motivation or achievement.
... It also stresses the need for collaboration of parents, students and teachers to ensure student engagement and mastery. There is a statistically significant positive correlation between parents' attitudes towards mathematics and their children's attitude towards mathematics (Mohr-Schroeder et al. 2017) and parents' interest in the school and parents' level of satisfaction in mathematics is linked to students' belief in their own ability (Surgenor et al. 2006). Parents need to be given the tools to play a greater role in the mathematics education of their children in first year of secondary education to ensure transitional success. ...
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A successful transition from primary to secondary school is central to student confidence and the sustainment of student interest and passion for learning. The literature indicates that difficult transitions can result in decreased levels of motivation, negative attitudes towards school, decreased levels of confidence and disengagement particularly in relation to mathematics. This study investigated student performance in mathematics after the transition from primary to secondary education in Ireland. It comes in the aftermath of major educational reform in mathematics in Ireland at both primary and secondary level and is the first Irish study to examine the effect of the transition on mathematical achievement. Academic achievement in mathematics was measured using a standardised test at the end of the final year of primary school and the end of first year of secondary education. Progress in mathematics was measured over the transition by comparing these two test results for 249 students. On average, students’ raw scores decreased by 7% from sixth class (final year of primary school) to the end of first year of secondary education despite an additional year of instruction and extensive overlap of both syllabi. The results showed statistically significant losses in each strand area and in each process skill. This academic transition is not unique to Ireland and the findings from this research study will be of interest to the mathematics education community internationally since it extends the evidence base for studies in school transition.
... In order to conceptualize an equity-based framework of K-12 STEM literacy, we conducted a systematic review of literature related to STEM literacy, which includes empirical studies that contribute to STEM literacy as well as our own empirical work in STEM literacy (e.g., Cavalcanti & Mohr-Schroeder, 2019;Clark et al., 2015;Maiorca et al., 2020;Mohr-Schroeder et al., 2014;Mohr-Schroeder et al., 2017;Mohr-Schroeder et al., 2018;Nurlaely et al., 2017;Roberts et al., 2018;Tati et al., 2017). For this systematic literature review, we reviewed literature from 2009 to present. ...
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We introduce a conceptual framework of K-12 STEM literacy that rightfully and intentionally positions each and every student, particularly minoritized groups, as belonging in STEM. In order to conceptualize the equity-based framework of STEM literacy, we conducted a systematic review of literature related to STEM literacy, which includes empirical studies that contribute to STEM literacy. The literature on the siloed literacies within STEM (i.e., science, technology, engineering, and mathematics literacy) also contributed to formulate the necessity of and what it means to develop STEM literacy. The Equity-Oriented STEM Literacy Framework illuminates the complexities of disrupting the status quo and rightfully transforming integrated STEM education in ways that provide equitable opportunities and access to all learners. The Equity-Oriented STEM Literacy Framework is a research-based, equity and access-focused framework that will guide research, inform practice, and provide a lens for the field that will ensure each and every student, especially minoritized students, develop, and are developing STEM literacy.
... They thought that parents, especially their fathers, had a direct impact on their love of mathematics. These findings are supported by other studies' results that also mentioned the impact of teachers and parents on students' attitudes (e.g., Areepattamannil et al., 2015;Gegbe, Sundai, & Sheriff, 2015;Mohr-Schroeder et al., 2017). This result proves that if students love their teachers or think their teachers are good, this will affect their motivation to learn and increase their effort when learning the subject. ...
... A limited study revealed that parental involvement in education is not always good for math anxiety. Increases in children's math anxiety can occur when children have math-anxious parents, as these parents often expressed negative attitudes about math (Maloney et al., 2015;Mohr-Schroeder, Jackson, Cavalcanti, Jong, Schroeder, & Speler, 2017). Thus, future research should consider parental math anxiety when exploring the relationship between parental educational involvement and children's math anxiety (Wood, McLeod, Sigman, Hwang, & Chu, 2003). ...
Environmental and individual factors are regarded as powerful predictors of math anxiety. However, their joint contribution to predicting math anxiety has not been thoroughly explored. To address this, two studies were conducted to examine how parental educational involvement and teacher support related to math evaluation anxiety and learning math anxiety concurrently (Study 1) and longitudinally (Study 2) and whether the effect of parental educational involvement and teacher support on math anxiety needed to go through math learning involvement. Third-grade students (Study 1: N = 1780, Study 2: N = 1850) from three public elementary schools participated in the studies. Concurrent analyses revealed that higher parental educational involvement and teacher support were associated with higher math learning involvement and lower math anxiety. Moreover, math learning involvement partially mediated the relation between parental educational involvement and math evaluation anxiety, teacher support and math evaluation anxiety, teacher support and learning math anxiety, but fully mediated the relation between parental educational involvement and learning math anxiety. Longitudinally, robust associations were found between current parental educational involvement, current teacher support, and subsequent learning math anxiety. But similar patterns did not emerge in math evaluation anxiety. Specifically, the direct effect of parental educational involvement and teacher support on math evaluation anxiety was not significant. These findings suggested the importance of taking into account the dimension of math anxiety when understanding the mechanisms of math anxiety from a dynamic developmental perspective. We demonstrate areas that need improvement and suggest possible future directions.
... En una línea similar, Knap, Landers y Liang (2016) sostienen que las actitudes tanto de los padres como de las madres hacia la matemática y su confianza para aprender esta disciplina impactan el rendimiento académico del estudiantado en matemática. Mohr-Schroeder et al. (2017) encontraron correlaciones positivas y estadísticamente significativas entre la actitud de los padres y de las madres hacia la matemática y la de sus hijos. De la misma manera, hallaron que "la actitud de los padres y madres funge como un factor de predicción relevante de la actitud de sus hijos hacia la matemática" (p. ...
Prior research demonstrates that individuals’ math anxiety may be negatively related to their mathematics performance. However, little research has examined how caregivers’ math anxiety is associated with children’s mathematics performance prior to kindergarten. The purpose of this study was to investigate the relation between parents’ math anxiety and the change in children’s mathematics performance during the preschool year. Participants were 310 preschool-age children (155 female; 4.12–5.78 years of age, M = 5.20 years, SD = 0.29). Structural equation modeling results demonstrated that parents’ math anxiety was significantly negatively related to change in children’s mathematics performance during the pre-kindergarten year when controlling for fall mathematics performance and demographics. Moreover, multigroup path analyses revealed that this association did not differ for male versus female children.
Family-related factors, like parent’s educational level, expectations and socio-economic variables have a significant impact on students’ educational outcomes. In this study our aim is to examine how parental attitudes and the socioeconomic status of student’s family are related to student’s early literacy and numeracy skills and, further, to student’s performance in mathematics and science in the TIMSS assessment. As data we use the latest TIMSS 2015 data collected from parents and students in Finland and Sweden and further as method we use path analysis. According to the results, all considered variables have a highly significant and positive direct effect on the 4th grade student performance. However, some differences between the countries emerged. The results of this study highlight the importance of high-quality early childhood environments on students later educational outcome.
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The COVID-19 lockdown has impacted many aspects of our lives. In particular, children have experienced a rapid change in the way in which education has been delivered. In this study we aimed to assess the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on educational delivery from the perspective of parents. As seen within the emerging literature in relation to COVID-19 and education from across the globe, this study indicates the variability of experience across children of different ages and different demographic groups, e.g. socio-economic status, maternal education. Lessons to be learned from this exceptional period for potential future restrictions are discussed.
Assessment for Learning (AfL) has long been identified as effective in supporting teachers to modify their teaching and learning with the aim of improving attainment but AfL practices are rarely applied to mathematics homework. Parental involvement in learning is also a key ingredient to success. This paper explores the benefits of using AfL strategies within mathematics homework that harnessed the involvement of parents. Nine English primary schools piloted the use of mathematics homework projects that were based in the lived experiences of parents and children. A designated classroom changeover session was introduced to provide an opportunity for children, teachers and parents to practice AfL strategies within the context of mathematics homework. Findings suggest that changing the nature of the homework provided more opportunities for discussion in the home which resulted in higher quality engagement. Parents commented that there was reduced tension over homework as they were able to use their own calculation methods and children were more willing to see them as experts with this type of activity. Children more readily accepted feedback from parents and peers on how to improve their approaches.
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This study explored the reliability and validity of the inventory that measures attitudes toward mathematics among middle school students. The original version of Attitudes toward Mathematics Inventory (ATMI) was adapted and translated into Arabic language and administered to middle school students in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The data were analysed to establish the reliability and construct validity as well as the factor structure of the instrument. Our results showed that four factor model was the best fit using confirmatory factor analysis. The findings from this study indicated that the translated version of the inventory can be effectively used in Arabic speaking countries. Propiedades psicométricas de un inventario para determinar los factores que afectan a las actitudes de los estudiantes hacia las matemáticas Resumen: El presente artículo analiza la fiabilidad y validez del inventario que mide las actitudes hacia las matemáticas entre los estudiantes de secundaria. La versión original de las actitudes hacia la Matemática Inventory (ATMI) fue adaptado y traducido al árabe y se administró a los estudiantes de secundaria en los Emiratos Árabes Unidos. Los datos se analizaron para establecer la fiabilidad y validez de constructo, así como el factor de estructura del instrumento. Nuestros resultados muestran que el modelo de cuatro factores fue el mejor ajuste en el análisis factorial confirmatorio. Los resultados de este estudio indican que la versión traducida del inventario puede ser utilizado con eficacia en países de habla árabe.
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A large field study of children in first and second grade explored how parents' anxiety about math relates to their children's math achievement. The goal of the study was to better understand why some students perform worse in math than others. We tested whether parents' math anxiety predicts their children's math achievement across the school year. We found that when parents are more math anxious, their children learn significantly less math over the school year and have more math anxiety by the school year's end-but only if math-anxious parents report providing frequent help with math homework. Notably, when parents reported helping with math homework less often, children's math achievement and attitudes were not related to parents' math anxiety. Parents' math anxiety did not predict children's reading achievement, which suggests that the effects of parents' math anxiety are specific to children's math achievement. These findings provide evidence of a mechanism for intergenerational transmission of low math achievement and high math anxiety. © The Author(s) 2015.
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This study examined relationships among interest, achievement motivation, mathematical ability, the quality of experience when doing mathematics, and mathematics achievement. One hundred eight freshmen and sophomores (41 males, 67 females) completed interest ratings, an achievement motivation questionnaire, and the Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test. These assessments were followed by 1 week of experience sampling. Mathematics grades were available from the year before the study started, from the same year, and from the following 3 years. In addition, a measure of the students' course level in mathematics was included. The results showed that quality of experience when doing mathematics was mainly related to interest. Grades and course level were most strongly predicted by level of ability. Interest was found to contribute significantly to the prediction of grades for the second year and to the prediction of course level. Quality of experience was significantly correlated with grades but not course level.
Providing preservice teachers with opportunities to engage with parents and begin to see them as collaborators in their children's education is a persistent challenge in mathematics methods courses and teacher preparation programs more broadly. We describe the use of family mathematics nights as a model for engaging parents and preservice teachers. These events helped preservice teachers feel more comfortable in working with parents, while also giving them a friendly space for learning more about parents, the ways they work with their children, and activities they do with their children. Incorporating surveys about parents' needs and suggestions for preservice teachers allowed us to use the results as a catalyst for fostering discussions around parent engagement later in the methods course.
Drawing on data from the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) and employing multilevel modeling as an analytic strategy, this study examined the relations of adolescent children's perceptions of their parents' attitudes towards mathematics to their own attitudes towards mathematics and mathematics achievement among a sample of 5116 adolescents from 384 schools in the United Arab Emirates. The results of this cross-sectional study revealed that adolescents who perceived that their parents liked mathematics and considered mathematics was important for their children not only to study but also for their career tended to report higher levels of intrinsic and instrumental motivation to learn mathematics, mathematics self-concept and self-efficacy, and mathematics work ethic. Moreover, adolescents who perceived that their parents liked mathematics and considered mathematics was important for their children's career tended to report positive intentions and behaviors toward mathematics. However, adolescents who perceived that their parents considered mathematics was important for their children's career tended to report higher levels of mathematics anxiety. Finally, adolescents who perceived that their parents considered mathematics was important for their children to study performed significantly better on the mathematics assessment than did their peers whose parents disregarded the importance of learning mathematics. Copyright © 2015 The Foundation for Professionals in Services for Adolescents. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Data were collected on the mathematics achievement, spatial visualization ability, student attitudes, sex, parent attitudes, and student career interests of 1982 seventh and eighth graders from 13 midwestern junior high schools. Parent attitudes and student career interests were significant predictors of mathematics achievement over and above the other variables. Sex was the only variable that did not make a unique contribution to the variance. Three canonical variates were identified between student attitudes and parent attitudes; three between student attitudes and student career interests; and one between student career interests and parent attitudes.