A STUDY OF ATTITUDES TOWARDS
MATHEMATICS AMONG LEARNERS
IN GRADE 10 IN NAMIBIA
By
POLLIK.ARPUS ANDIMA
Higher Diploma in Education
University ofthe Western Cape
Bellville, South Africa
1992
Submitted to the Faculty of the
Graduate College of the
Oklahoma State University
in partial fulfillment of
the requirements for
the Degree of
MASTER OF SCIENCE
May, 2001
A STUDY OF ATTITUDES TOWARDS
MATHEMATICS AMONG LEARNERS
IN GRADE 10 IN NAMIBIA
Thesis Approved:
~l1ege
11
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
I wish to extend my sincere appreciation to Dr. Patricia Jordan, my adviser and
chairperson of the advisory committee for her encouragement, support, and guidance in
the preparation of this study.
Grateful appreciation is also extended to the other members of the advisory
committee, Dr. Kay Reinke and Dr. William Segall. Special thanks to Dr. Dale Fuqua
who guided me through the statistical analysis of the study.
Special thanks also need to be extended to the learners who completed the
questionnaires and also those who sat in patiently during the interviews. I also have to
thank the Ministry ofBasic Education, the head teachers and teachers who allowed me to
conduct the study.
As this chapter ofmy life comes to an end, I especially want to thank my parents,
brothers, sisters, my inlaws, my sponsors (ATLAS!AAI), and all my friends for their
continuous support and encouragement.
This study is dedicated to my wife and best friend, Hendrina. Her love,
encouragement, support, and patience guided me throughout the completion of this study.
To her lowe the greatest debt of all.
Above all I wish to thank the Almighty God who made everything possible right
up to the end of this study. May He bless all those who contributed to the completion of
this study in various ways?
III
Ok/ahoma State University L;brary
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Chapter Page
I. IN"TRODUCTION....................................................................... 1
NaIllibia. .. .. . .. .. ... ... . 1
History.......................... 1
Educational System in Namibia................................................. 1
Mathematics Education in Namibia................. 4
Ondangwa Educational Region.. .... .. .. ... ... ... ... ... .... ... ...... .. ... ...... 5
Statement of the Problem........................................................ 5
Purpose ofthe Study '... 6
Research Questions. .... ... .. ... ... ... .... ...... ... ... .. .... .. ... ....... .. ... ..... 6
Limitations and Assumptions................................................... 8
Definitions of Tenns. 8
Outline ofthe Report.......................... .. .. .. .. 9
II. REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE................................................ 10
Nature of Attitudes............................................................... 10
Factors Influencing Attitudes............................................... .... 12
Mathematics Attitudes and Achievement. . .. ... . .. . .. ... ... 15
Summary of the Literature.............. 16
III. DESIGN AND METHODOLOGY. .. ... .. .. 18
Participants ,. . .. ... ... .. .. .. 18
Instrument. .. 19
Questionnaire...... .... ... .. .. .. . .. .... .. . .. ... . .. .. .. .. . 19
Interviews. .... .. . ... ..... .. . .. ... ... .. ... ... . .. .... ... . 20
IV. RESULTS........................................................................... 22
First Research Question , .... .. . .. . .. 23
Second Research Question.................................................... 26
Third Research Question............................................... 28
Fourth Research Question '" 30
Fifth Research Question..................................................... 33
Sixth Research Question..................................................... 36
IV
Chapter Page
Seventh Research Question.................... 38
Eighth Research Question. . ... .. ... ... ... ......... ...... . .. ... .... .. ... .. .. .. ... 40
Interview Results. .. .. ... 43
V. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS................................ 45
Conclusions '" ... 46
Recommendations. .... ...... ... .. ...... ... ... .... .. . .. ... . ... ... ...... .. ... .... 50
REFERENCES '" 52
APPENDIXES , .. 55
APPENDIX A  QUESTIONNAIRE FOR THE LEARNERS 56
APPENDIX B  INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARD FORM........ 60
v
Table
LIST OF TABLES
Page
I. Age Distribution of Learners across Schools ,.. . 22
II. Responses of Males and Females to Statements regarding
Mathematics as a Maledominated Field 25
III. Responses ofMales and Females to Statements regarding
Mathematics as a Processoriented versus Ruleoriented Subject.......... ... 27
TV. Responses ofMales and Females to Statements regarding the
Usefulness and Relevance ofMathematics. 29
V. Responses of Males and Females to Statements regarding
Mathematics and Oneself. . ... .. . .. . .. . .. . . ... .. ... .. . ... .. . .. ... ... ... . . .. .. . .. ..... 32
VI. Responses of Learners from Ondangwa East and West to Statements
Regarding Mathematics as a Maledominated Field............................ 35
VII. Responses of Learners from Ondangwa East and West to Statements
Regarding Mathematics as a Processoriented versus
Ruleoriented subject. . . . .. .. .. . .. . ... .. . .. .. .. .. . ..... . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. . .. .... 37
VIII. Responses of Learners from Ondangwa East and West to Statements
Regarding the Usefulness and Relevance of Mathematics. 39
IX. Responses of Learners from Ondangwa East and West to Statements
Regarding Mathematics and Oneself. ... ,.. . .. ... .. . .. . . ... .. . .. . ... .. . . . . .. . .. ... 31
VI
Figure
LIST OF FIGURES
Page
1. Responses of Males and Females to Statements regarding
Mathematics as a Maledominated Field 26
2. Responses ofMales and Females to Statements regarding
Mathematics as a Processoriented versus Ruleoriented Subject 28
3. Responses of Males and Females to Statements regarding the
Usefulness and Relevance ofMathematics 30
4. Responses ofMales and Females to Statements regarding
Mathematics and Oneself. 33
5. Responses of Learners from Ondangwa East and West to Statements
Regarding Mathematics as a Maledominated Field......................... 36
6. Responses of Learners from Ondangwa East and West to Statements
Regarding Mathematics as a Processoriented versus
Ruleoriented subject. '" .... .. .... . . . ... .. . ... .. ...... ... . ..... ... . ... ... ... .. . ... 38
7. Responses ofLearners from Ondangwa East and West to Statements
Regarding the Usefulness and Relevance of Mathematics...... . . 40
8. Responses of Learners from Ondangwa East and West to Statements
Regarding Mathematics and Oneself. , . .. . .. . . . .. . .. . .. .. .. . . 42
Vll
CHAPTER I
INTRODUCTION
Namibia
Namibia is in Southern Africa and shares borders with Angola to the north,
Botswana to the east, South Africa to the south, and to the west is the Atlantic Ocean. In
1996 the population of Namibia was about 1.6 million. Its area is about 824,292sq. Ian
(318,261 sq. miles) with a population density of about 2.0 people per sq. km. The most
spoken languages in Namibia are Oshiwambo, Otjiherero, Khoekhoegowab, Rukwangali,
Silozi, Afrikaans, and German. English was introduced as the official language of
communication at independence in 1990.
History
Namibia like all the countries on the African continent was a colony. It was
colonized by Germany from the 1800s until the end of 1915, with the defeat ofGermany
during World War 1. Since then Namibia was placed under the South African apartheid
regime by the League of Nations. The country gained its independence from the apartheid
regime in 1990 when South West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO) won the first
everdemocratic election held in the country.
Educational System in Namibia
According to Amukugo (1993), education for black Namibians during the
colonial period went through the following phases: preBantu Education before 1962,
Bantu Education in 19621976, and postBantu Education from 1977 onwards.
The pre Bantu Education phase was characterized by missionary education..
.Aunong the missionary groups were Anglican, Catholic, Finnish, and Rhenish. Each
missionary group established its own schools in different parts of the country. Although
they established separate schools, they followed a similar pattern of education. The
missionary education provided basic literacy and numeric training to the African people.
Amukongo (1993) wrote that the missionary education system "was shaped by both. the
missionaries' religious motivation to convert Africans to Christianity and the political
motivation to convince Africans of the need for state protection"(p.40). The influence of
the missionary education is very high in Namibian society, with about over 90 percent of
the population being Christians.
In 1962, the apartheid regime in South Africa extended its policy ofBantu
Education to Namibia. Bantu Education was designed, as part of the apartheid policy, to
prepare Mricans for subordinate positions within the labor market. According to Molteno
(1984), the aim of Bantu Education "was never intended as a simple denial of educational
opportunities but represented a more calculated attempt to subvert the political and
economical aspirations of Black South Africans"(p.94). In order to achieve its objectives,
the regime removed the control of education for Africans from the various missionary
organizations and centralized its control within the government.
As a result of apartheid, the education system was unequally divided into eleven
educational systems and authorities based on ethnicity. The policies of apartheid, under
South African occupation, have left a legacy of different allocation of resources to
different racial groups. There are presentl~ a number of disparities in the education
system in Namibia. Schools in the formerly disadvantage areas have higher percentage of
2
unqualified and under qualified teachers. The classrooms in those areas are overcrowded
and poorly equipped. Disparity is also observed across regions. The learne.rs in some
regions are taught under difficult conditions such as fewer textbooks per learner. Rural
schools are generally ill equipped and have inadequate resources needed for effective
teaching.
Today the government owns over 95 percent of schools in Namibia. The church
and private groups own the other portion. The Ministry of Basic Education and Culture
(MBEC) is the overseer of primary, junior, and senior education. The Educational system
has seven years of universal primary education (grade 1 to 7), three years ofjunior
secondary education (grade 8 to 10), and two years of senior secondary education (11 to
12) followed by tertiary education.
The National Institute of Education Development (NIED), a directorate in the
MBEC, is responsible for designing the curricula and syllabi used in all schools. In order
for the Ministry to bring it services closer to the community, seven educational regions
were organized covering different parts of the country. The regions are: Ondangwa East
and West (in the north), Rundu (central north east), Katima (far north east), Khorixas (in
the west), Windhoek (central), and Keetrnanshoop (in the south).
Another important division within the MBEC is the directorate of Examinations
and Assessments, which mainly oversee the grades 10 and 12 national examinations. At
the end of grade 10, learners sit for the Junior Secondary Certificate (JSC) examinations.
Grade 12 learners take the International General Certificate of Secondary Education
(IGCSE) or the Higher International Gene :al Certificate of Secondary Education
(HIGCSE) offered by the Cambridge Examination Syndicate in Britain.
3
Since independence the change in educational opportunity has led to a fast
increase of enrollment at all levels, especially at the primary level. Due to the rapid
increase in learners' enrollment, space in secondary schools (grades 11 and 12) is limited.
Learners have to compete for space in secondary schools. As a result, many learners end
up in "nonformal education". A newly formed institution, Namibia College of Open
Learning (NAMCOL), offers classes to learners who could not be accommodated in
formal education.
Mathematics Education in Namibia
Prior to Namibia's independence in 1990, many schools for black learners did not
offer mathematics and science at the secondary level partly because of a lack of qualified
teachers. When qualified staff was available, mathematics was taught with strong
emphasis on the memorization of facts with little connection to real life situations.
Furthermore, learners were discouraged from taking mathematics and science at the
secondary school level because mathematics was considered difficult, especially for the
Africans. Hendrik Verwoerd, a former Minister of Bantu Education in South Africa (cited
by Mwetulundila, 2000), said:
What is the use of teaching a Bantu child mathematics when he cannot use it in
practice? Education must train and teach people in accordance with their
opportunities in life ... It is therefore necessary that native education should be
controlled in such a way that it should be in accordance with the policy of the
state. (p. 23)
Mathematics and science were und :rdeveloped before independence. Both these
subjects were optional from "standard 8", the equivalent of grade 10. As a result, only
4
few selected learners could continue with mathematics. Subsequently, the majority ofthe
learners were denied the opportunity to study mathematics beyond grade 9. Today,
however, more learners are taking mathematics because it is compulsory up to grade 10.
Ondangwa Educational Region
Ondangwa educational region in this study refers to the combination of both
Ondangwa East and Ondangwa West. These are two of the seven educational regions in
Namibia. Ondangwa educational region is the largest region with the highest number of
learners' enrollment. In 1998, 10 469 (east 4 238 and west 6 231) learners were enrolled
in grade 10 mathematics in the region. The region is mainly rural with overwhelmingly
majority of the population making a living from farming and commerce. Statistics from
the directorate of Examinations and Assessments, taken in past years, have shown very
poor results in mathematics. For example, about 51.9% of grade 10 learners in Ondangwa
East were ungraded in mathematics in 1998 final examination, while for Ondangwa West
it was 57.7%
Statement of the Problem
There is a growing concern in Namibia about the poor performance of learners in
mathematics, particularly, grades 10 and 12. Statistics from the Ministry of Basic
Education and Culture (MBEC), taken in past years, have shown very poor results in
mathematics across the country. Over the years, considerable research has been
conducted on the beliefs and attitudes towards mathematics. Little research was done in
Namibia on learners' beliefs and attitudes towards mathematics.
The poor performance of learners ::J. mathematics may be linked to many different
factors. The results of research pertaining to attitudes towards mathematics have found
that positive effects lead to positive achievement. ThorndikeChrist (1991) wrote that
attitudes towards mathematics have been strongly linked to mathematics achievement.
Many studies showed that positive attitudes towards mathematics have a significant
impact on mathematics achievement (Mather, 1994). The way students respond to
mathematical situations is reflective of their attitudes or beliefs about themselves and
mathematics as a discipline (Shoenfield, 1985). Poor student attitudes towards
mathematics can influence students negatively, thus, contributing to poor results and a
decline in students' enrollment in mathematics courses (ThorndikeChrist, 1991).
In the past, learning mathematics, teaching of mathematics was underdeveloped,
considered difficult, and only a few learners were encouraged to pursue mathematics.
This atmosphere provided a good opportunity to examine the attitudes of grade 10
learners towards mathematics. Furthermore, the poor performance of grade 10 learners in
mathematics provides an additional rationale for investigating their attitudes towards
learning mathematics. Attitudes are of part.icular interest as more learners are being
encouraged by the Namibian government to study mathematics. The Namibian
government has declared mathematics and science as priority areas. Considerable
attention is being given to enhancing mathematics education across the country.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of the study is to investigate grade 10 learners' attitudes towards
mathematics in the Ondangwa educational region.
Research Questions
In order to investigate the learners' attitudes towards mathematics, the following
questions, which served to guide the deve' opment ofthis study, would be addressed:
6
1. Are there significant differences between perceptions of male and female
learners regarding mathematics as a maledominated field?
2. Are there significant differences between perceptions ofmale and female
learners regarding mathematics as a discipline?
3. Are there significant differences between perceptions of male and female
learners regarding the perceived usefulness and relevance of mathematics?
4. Are there significant differences between perceptions of male and female
learners regarding themselves as learners ofmathematics?
Another area of particular interest was to investigate whether there were
significant differences in perceptions between learners in Ondangwa East and Ondangwa
West. Therefore, the following similar questions were asked:
5. Are there significant differences between perceptions of learners in
Ondangwa East and West regarding mathematics as a maledominated field?
6. Are there significant differences between perceptions ofleamers in Ondangwa
East and Ondangwa West regarding mathematics as a discipline?
7. Are there significant differences between perceptions of learners in Ondangwa
East and Ondangwa West regarding the perceived usefulness and relevance of
mathematics?
8. Are there significant differences between perceptions of learners in
Ondangwa East and Ondangwa West regarding themselves as learners of
mathematics?
7

Limitations and Assumptions
I.The fact that not the entire population but only a sample was used may give superficial
results. The subjects of this study were limited to only 2481eamers. Secondly, the time
period for conducting the study seems very short.
2. It is assumed that attitudes are measurable.
3. It is further assumed that the instruments used in this study can measure the attitudes of
the learners.
4. Because the instrument had been previously used as a component of the Second
International Mathematics Study, the researcher assumed that the reliability coefficient is
positive and significant and thus would increase the validity of the findings.
5. It is assumed that all the participants responded honestly to the instruments used in this
study.
Definition ofTenns
For the purpose and the understanding of this study, the following frequently used
teons are clarified:
Attitudes towards mathematics refer to things such as liking or disliking of mathematics,
a tendency to engage in or avoid mathematics, and a belief that mathematics is useful or
useless (Neale, 1969).
A grade 10 learner is the equivalent of a tenth grade student.
Ondangwa East is one of the seven educational regions in Namibia.
Ondangwa West is one of the seven educational regions in Namibia.
Ondangwa education region refers to the combination of both Ondangwa East and
Ondangwa West.
8
e
' ...
Outline ofthe Report
This report is divided into five chapters. Chapter I describes the context in which
the study was conducted. It covers background infonnation on Namibia, particularly, the
educational system with the main focus on mathematics education. Following this are the
statement ofthe problem, the purpose of the study, the research questions, the limitations
and assumptions, and the defmitions of frequently used tenns in the study. Chapter II
presents a selective overview ofrelevant literatures under the following headings: Nature
of Attitudes, Factors Influencing Attitudes, and Mathematics Attitudes and
Achievement. Chapter III presents the design and methodology, participants, descriptions
of the instruments, and the collection of data. The results are reported and analyzed in
chapter N while the conclusions and recommendations are presented in chapter V.
N
CHAPTER II
REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
A brief review of the literature related to the study is presented under the
following headings:
1. Nature of Attitudes.
2. Factors Influencing Attitudes.
3. Mathematics Attitudes and Achievement.
Nature of Attitudes
Attitude has been defined in a variety ofways; here are few examples: According
to Brito (1996, quoted by Utsumi and Mendes, 2000):
... Attitude can be defined as a personal inclination, idiosyncratic, present in all
individuals, directed to objects, events or people, that takes on a different
direction and intensity according to the experiences each individual has had.
Besides, it presents components from the affective, cognitive and motor
domain.(p.238).
"An attitude is a mental and neutral state ofreadiness, organized through
experience, exerting a directive or dynamic influence upon the individual's response to
all objects and situations with which it is related" (Fishbein, 1967, p.8).
to
,
¢
According to Sorenson (1964) an attitude refers to a particular feeling about
something. That "something" can be a person, an idea, or an object. Attitude is not
inherent but acquired by the individual. Shaw and Wright (1967) agreed when they
suggested that attitudes are not innate but learned, and are developed through many
learning experiences. Aiken (1972) referred to attitudes as meaning the same thing as
enjoyment, interest, and to some extent, level ofanxiety. Attitudes may also refer to
feelings about mathematics and feelings about oneself as a learner.
How a person feels or what he or she believes cannot be measured directly.
Therefore, attitudes cannot be measured directly. However, it can be inferred from their
behavioral manifestation through the use of questions, or by obtaining the individual's
expressed reaction to statements. Attitude is observable and measurable (Green, 1954).
Green described attitude as a psychological construct, or latent variable, inferred from
observable responses to stimuli that are assumed to mediate consistency and co variation
among these responses.
Some studies dealing with attitudes suggested that attitudes are formed at an early
age. Fedon (1958) inferred from his study that children formed opinion about
mathematics by the third grade. Dutton (1956) concurred with Ferlon and· further stated
that at an early stage in the educational sequence children are influenced to take a stand,
either for or against mathematics, which appears quite permanent. Dutton also found
evidence that attitudes towards mathematics steadily decline through the intermediate
grades. It is, therefore, important to make sure that learning situations and conditions are
pleasant for children at an early stage to a' oid negative attitudes. Suydam (1984) argued
that attitudes towards mathematics are formed and modified by many forces. Some ofthe
11
a
forces cited were teacher's enthusiasm and methods, parents and other adults, class mates
and other children, selfconcepts, learning styles, and experience with mathematics in and
out ofschool. Knaupp (1973) stated that studies dealing with students' attitudes are
difficult to interpret since (1) the type of attitudes being measured were not clearly
defined, (2) the instruments used to measure attitudes were questionable, and (3) controls
on extraneous variables were very difficult to effectively employ. Thus, a clearly defined
and valid attitudemeasuring device is needed.
Factors Influencing Attitudes
Considerable research has been done in the field of attitudes and beliefs towards
mathematics from a variety ofperspectives and among various groups. Many social
factors, such as attitudes ofteachers and parents towards mathematics as well as the
personal experiences with mathematics, were identified as playing a role in fonning and
modifying attitudes towards mathematics. It is widely assumed that teacher attitudes
towards mathematics and feelings about the teaching of mathematics influence the
student's attitudes towards mathematics. Some studies were found to be supportive of the
relationship between teacher's attitudes and student's attitudes towards mathematics,
while others were found to be contradictory. Banks (1964, quoted by Riedesel) stated:
An unhealthy attitude towards arithmetic may results from a number of causes.
Parental attitudes may be responsible ... Repeated failure is almost certain to
produce a bad emotional reaction to the study of arithmetic. Attitudes of his peers
may will have their effects upon the child's attitudes. But by far the most
significant contributing factor is th~ attitude of the teacher. The teacher who feels
insecure, who dreads and dislike the subject, for whom arithmetic is largely rote
manipulation, devoid of understanding, cannot avoid transmitting her feelings to
12
· ' ..' ~., . ~. '.:
the children ...On the other, a teacher who has confidence, understanding, interest
and enthusiasm for arithmetic has gone a long way towards insuring success.
(p.232)
The results of Garner (1966, cited by Gilbert, 1976) supported Banks's assertion.
Garner found a significant relation between the attitudes and feelings of competency of a
teacher and the competency of the students. Philiips' (1973) study revealed a significant
relation between the arithmetic attitude of the student's most recent teacher and the
arithmetic attitude of the student. The study revealed, however, that student achievement
in arithmetic is not significantly related to the arithmetic attitudes ofthe student's most
recent teacher. Peskin (1964, cited by Phillips, 1973) in a study of seventh grade teachers
and students in New York City found no significant relation between teacher attitude and
student attitude nor between teacher attitude and student achievement.
Several studies have been conducted to examine attitudinal differences in
mathematics between male and female students. Fennema and Sherman (1977) found that
differences in attitudes are in favor of boys over girls at junior high level and beyond. A
study done by Stone, Beckman, and Stephens (1983, cited by Aksu, 1991) on factors that
may influence attitudes towards mathematics, found that precalculus college students'
attitudes towards mathematics are not significantly affected by sex. It further found that
firstyear college students have significantly better attitudes towards mathematics
compare to sophomore and juniors. In a longitudinal study, Aksu (1991) found that the
results on sex and departmental differences in attitudes towards mathematics were quite
different. For the year 1986 and 1988 he f ,und that freshman females were significantly
more positive than males.
13
Other studies have found differential treatment of male and female students by
teachers. Fennema (1984), for instance, found that teachers interact more with boys than
they do with girls. In addition, it was found that boys received more criticism for their
behavior than girls do and also boys received more positive feedback than girls. Reyes
(1980) in a study with twelve seventh grade teachers found tremendous variation in the
behavior of teachers. Some teachers asked many more high level questions of boys than
they did of girls.
Parents play an important role in shaping attitudes oftheir children. Fabricant
(1985) stated that parents who express negative attitudes towards mathematics might endup
teaching those negative attitudes to their children. Contrary to Fabricant, other
researchers (Parsons, Adler, & Kaczala, 1982; Shennan, 1982) did not find much support
for Fabricant. Perhaps one ofthe worst problem facing women and girls in mathematics
education is the notion held by society that males are more intelligent in mathematics
than females. Thus, creating the impression that males have, generally, a positive
attitudes towards mathematics, whereas, females are seen as having negative attitudes
towards mathematics. Fennema (1984) wrote that society's stereotyping of mathematics,
as a male domain is a partial cause of females' less positive attitudes towards
mathematics.
Discussing the stereotype attitudes about girls, Mwetulundila (2000) wrote the
following:
Many Namibian girls always say" I am not good in Mathematics." In fact, at one
time, I had also totally accepted, ar did my parents, that I can never do
14
Mathematics, because it was just too difficult, and because of that I never bother
to learn it. (p. 30)
Such perception could have negative effects on females' ambitions and
confidence in mathematics, therefore, affecting their attitudes towards mathematics
negatively.
Mathematics Attitudes and Achievement
Over the years, numerous studies have been conducted to investigate students'
beliefs and attitudes towards mathematics. Some of the studies have shown a correlation
between mathematics attitudes and achievement. Aiken (1976) in his study on attitudes
towards mathematics showed that there was a significant correlation between attitudes
and achievement, the correlations were low. Fennema and Sherman (1977, 1978 cited by
Kloosterman, 1994) found that students with positive attitudes, for example, students who
believe that mathematics is useful and are confident in their ability about mathematics
have higher achievement than those who do not.
Some research reported that the relationship between attitudes and achievement
might vary with ability level. One such study was by Schofield (1982), who did find few
significant correlations between mathematics attitudes and achievement among girls in
any grade level. The correlations were generally low but positive. In that study, the fifth
grade recorded a negative correlation between mathematics attitudes and achievement.
The correlation between attitudes and achievement when only boys were considered was
positive and significant. When both boys and girls were compared, the relationship was
low. Husen (1967) found that achievemen' was positively correlated with interest in
mathematics at all levels in all twelve countries he studied.
15
At elementary schools level, Suydam (1984) found that there was no significant
difference in the attitudes of girls and boys. She noted that the attitudes towards
mathematics remain positive until sixth grade and then become increasingly less positive
as students progress through school. Suydam (1984) found a low correlation between
students' attitudes towards mathematics and their achievement.
A longitudinal study by Anttonen (1967 cited by Neale, 1969) found that atWudes
towards learning mathematics become increasingly less favorable as the child progresses
in school. The students' attitudes were measured over a period of six years from either
fifth or sixth and again retested in the eleventh or twelfth grade. The results revealed that
the mean score had declined one standard deviation over the sixyear period. The decline
was, however, somewhat less than one standard deviation for those students who took the
full years of mathematics.
Hart (1976), in a study of 179 students found a significant correlation between
attitudes and achievement. The study revealed that less than 20 percent of the variance in
attitudes could be attributed to achievement variance. Hart, however, cautioned that there
might have been other variables that were not disclosed by statistical analysis. Therefore,
even when a significant correlation occurred, it is difficult to determine whether the
attitude towards mathematics affects the achievement or vice versa.
Summary of the Literature
The following areas of review of related literature have been presented in this
chapter:
1. The concept ofthe natur of attitudes, its importance, how it is
acquired, and when it is formed.
L6
2. The role of attitudes towards mathematics in mathematics achievement
can be used to explain some of the variation in achievement. Positive or
negative attitudes towards mathematics are formed and modified by
many other forces such as teachers, methods, parents, selfconcept, and
experience with mathematics in and out of school.
3. The possible influence that teachers and parents have on children's
attitudes as well as the influence of society with special focus on gender
differences.
4. Despite the extensive research done on the relationship between
mathematics attitudes and achievement in many countries, no study, as
far as the researcher is aware, have attempted to address the question of
attitudes towards mathematics in Namibian. The objective of this study
was to find answers as to what are the attitudes of grade 10 learners
towards mathematics.
17
CHAPTER III
DESIGN AND METHODOLOGY
The survey was conducted between the beginning ofJune 2000 through the end of
July 2000 in 27 governmentsupported schools in Ondangwa East and Ondangwa West
education regions. The total number of schools offering grade lOin both regions was 183
(year 2000). Permission to conduct the survey was obtained from school administrators
and class teachers. The questionnaires were delivered at all the participating schools and
then gathered by the researcher after two to three weeks. The questionnaires were pi loted
with eleven grade 10 learners of mathematics in Windhoek region. Minor revisions were
made based on the pilot group.
Participants
Participants in the study were grade 10 learners from both Ondangwa East and
Ondangwa West education regions. Initially, 908 learners participated in the study. Of
those who participated, 440 were females, 384 were males, and 84 did not disclose their
gender. Due to time constrains and the fact that the questionnaire was quite extensive, a
decision was made to use a stratified random sampling technique. Then it was decided to
select a sample of the survey from each school, the researcher selected 14 surveys from
each of two schools. To limit the number of surveys to be analyzed, the researcher then
decided to select only 10 surveys from each of the remaining school. This accounting for
the total of248 surveys, 124 male and 124 female, and 124 learners from Ondangwa East
and 124 learners from Ondangwa West.
18
Instrument
The study used two main methods for collecting data: the questionnaire and interview.
Questionnaire
The questionnaire for the learner was devised to explore aspect of the learners'
attitudes and perceptions towards mathematics. The questionnaire was a revised form of
an instrument developed during the Second International Mathematics Study (SIMS). It
was adapted for use by the grade 10 learners in Ondangwa region. Since the majority of
the learners use English as a second language, minor changes were made in the wording
ofsome of the items so that the learners could more easily understand them. For example,
on item 2 the word "worthwhile" was dropped because the researcher felt that some ofthe
learners may not know its meaning. On item 3 in the SIMS questionnaire the phrase"
more mathematics" was replaced with "mathematics in grade 11". On the SIMS
questionnaire the statement "I have little use for mathematics outside of school", was
changed to "I use little mathematics outside school." For all the items, learners were
required to tick the appropriate response from a set of three alternatives: "yes" if they
agreed, "no" if they disagreed, and "unsure" if they were not sure about the answer. Of
the 1080 questionnaires for the learners, 908 were returned, a returned rate of 84.1 %.
Although 908 questionnaires were returned, only 248 questionnaires were considered for
this report. Efforts were made to assure that participation was representative of the wide
range of abilities in any school. For example, in a school with more than one grade 10
class, the teachers were requested by the researcher to distribute the questionnaires
randomly across all the grade 10 classes. Each teacher was given a letter explaining the
purpose of the study. The learners were asked not to write their names on the
19
questionnaires. No incentives or rewards were offered for completing the questionnaires.
The teachers collected the questionnaires from the learners and forwarded them to the
researcher.
Interviews
In addition to the questionnaire, infonnation was also obtained through interviews
from fourteen randomly selected grade 10 learners (from the same sample used for the
questionnaires). Interviews with individual learners were conducted to corroborate
questionnaire findings.
The grade 10 mathematics teachers were asked to randomly select one (in some
cases two) learner(s), as a result, fourteen learners were selected on teachers'
recommendation, with an attempt to include those who "'like" and "dislike" mathematics.
Incidentally, seven boys and seven girls were selected for the interviews. The interview
questions were mainly designed to measure attitudes and perceptions associated with
mathematics. The interviews were conducted in such a way that each interviewee was
asked the same set of questions as others. The interviewer had the flexibility to lead the
interviewees into directions that he deemed would be productive. All the interview
sessions were recorded on audiotapes. In order to protect anonymity the names were not
mentioned.
All the interviews were conducted during school hours, especially, during breaks
and during teachers' administrative periods. The following set of questions were asked
during the interviews:
1. Do you like mathematics? Wh: ?
2. What do you like most about mathematics? Why?
20
3. What do you like least about mathematics? Why?
4. Do boys have more natural abilities to do mathematics than girls? Why?
5. Do you think that some people are naturally good or poor in mathematics?
Why?
6. Is mathematics a useful subject? Explain.
7. Is it important to know mathematics to get a good job? Explain.
8. Are you looking fOIWard to take mathematics in grades 11 and l2? Why.
21
CHAPTER 4
Results
As indicated in Chapter I, the purpose ofthis study was to investigate grade 10
learners' attitudes towards mathematics. A total of248 learners, 124 males and 124
females, were scored in this report. The age of the learners range from 14 to 25 years
with the mean equal to 16.8930 years and a standard deviation of 1.6099. The age
distribution of learners across schools is shown in Table 1.
Table I:
Age distribution of learners across schools.
Age
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
25
Total
Missing system
Total
Frequency
8
40
53
69
41
17
10
2
2
1
243
5
248
22
Percent
3.2
16.1
21.4
27.8
16.5
6.9
4.0
.8
.8
.4
98.0
2.0
100.0
.,' ..• .'." . . . " , • >" ,.". "
A questionnaire containing forty items that addressed learners' attitudes and perceptions
regarding mathematics was used to investigate their attitudes towards mathematics. The
items were selected from the Second International Mathematics Study. The items have
been categorized into four sections with each section containing items related to
mathematics attitudes and perception. The four categories ofattitudes were: mathematics
as a maledominated field, mathematics as a discipline, mathematics and society, ~d
mathematics and oneself.
For each item, the learners were required to select one response from a set of three
alternatives: "yes" if they agreed, "no" ifthey disagreed, and "unsure" ifthey were not
sure about the answer. Cronbach's alpha was used for the purpose of conducting
reliability calculations. Cronbach's alpha value was .640. Only "yes" and "no" responses
were scored and analyzed statistically. The data was analyzed using the statistical
package SPSS (1999) software program. Nonparametric analyses, a Chisquare <X2
) Test
at a. = .05, was conducted on each item to detennine if there were significant differences
in perceptions between male and female learners and also between learners in Ondangwa
East and West.
First Research Question
Six items were identified to detennine whether there were significant differences
between perception of male and female learners regarding mathematics as a maledominated
field. The results are shown in Table II. Of these six items, two revealed
statistically significant differences between perception of male and female learners. A
statistically significant difference in the re.;ponses given by males and females was
obtained in item 10, X2 = 7.608, P< .05. About 65% ofmales seemed to support the idea
23
that "men are better at mathematics than female are," whereas, about 60.5% of females
disagreed. Regarding item 22, . ·l = 14.515, p < .05. A high percentage (87.3%) ofmales
disagreed with the statement that "men are not better than women as scientist and
engineers," while 54.8% of females disagreed.
Although items 17,24,29, and 34 did not reveal statistically significant
differences between perceptions of male and female learners regarding mathematics as
maledominated, they still provided information on learners' attitudes and perceptions
regarding mathematics. For item 17, not surprisingly, more males (64.1 %) agreed that
they have more abilities to do mathematics compared to 47.7% females who seemed to
agree with the statement. Responses to item 29 indicated a high percentage support that
"Girls need to know mathematics just as much as boys do". Fifty percent and more of
each group said "yes" to item 34. They felt that women are logical enough to do well in
mathematics just like men.
24
Table II:
Responses of Males and Females to Statements regarding Mathematics as a maledominated
field.
Statement Percent Responding X
2 DF P value
Gender Agree Disagree
10. Male are better at mathematics than female are. Male 65.5 34.5 7.608 .007*
Female 39.5 60.5
17. Boys have more natural abilities to do Male 64.1 35.9 2.872 .090
mathematics than girls. Female 47.7 52.3
22. Men are not better than women as scientist and Male 12.7 87.3 14.515 1 .000*
engineers. Female 45.2 54.8
24. It is hard to believe a female could be good in Male 38.8 61.2 .000 1.000
mathematics. Female 39.8 60.2
29. Girls need to know mathematics just as much as Male 87.8 12.2 .000 1 1.000
boys do. Female 87.1 12.9
34. Women are certainly logical enough to do well Male 54.2 45.8 2.930 .087
in mathematics. Female 71.4 28.6
* Results significant at the P < .05 level
25
Figure 1: Responses of Males and Females to Statements regarding
Mathematics as a maledominated field
aq
100
90
80
70
60 c
Q)
u.... 50
Q)
0..
40
30
20
10
0
CMaie agree
mMale Disagree
mFemale Agree
IIFemale Disagree
item item
10 17
item item item item
22 24 29 34
Items
Second Research Question
For the second research question, eight items were included in this category.
These items dealt with perceptions of mathematics as a processoriented versus ruleoriented
subject. The data pertaining to this category did not show any statistically
significant differences associated with gender. The results shown in Table III revealed
some interesting findings. For example, according to the responses given to item 1, both
male and female learners seemed to strongly agree with the idea that mathematics helps
them to think according to strict rules. There was also strong support from both groups
regarding the usefulness of mathematics. A relatively higher percentage oflearners
26
agreed with the statement that mathematics helps them to think logically (89.9% males
and 86.6% females). Both males and females appeared to recognize that mathematics
problems could be solved using different ways. They, however, strongly agreed
that "there is always a rule to follow in solving mathematics problems." More females
than males stated that mathematics follow a particular set of rules. Responses to item 27,
which suggested that "trial and error" is useful in' solving mathematics were surprising.
The learners seemed to recognize the fact that ''trial and error" is a useful tool in solving
mathematics. Approximately halfofthe males (50.9%) disagreed with the statement that
learning mathematics is mostly memorizing, whereas, 42% of the females disagreed with
the statement.
Table III
Responses of Males and Females to Statements regarding Mathematics as a processoriented
versus ruleoriented subject.
Statement Percent Responding X2 DF P
Gender Agree Disagree value
1. Mathematics helps one think according to Male 84.3 15.7 2.580 .108
strict rules. Female 72.8 27.2
4. Mathematics follows a particular set of rules. Male 63.4 36.6 2.245 .134
Female 75.3 24.7
7. Mathematics helps me to think logically. Male 89.9 10.1 .248 .619
Female 86.6 13.4
IS. There are different ways to solve Male 94.5 5.5 .122 .727
mathematics problems. Female 92.4 7.6
20. There is always a rule to follow in solving a Male 90.5 9.5 .022 .883
mathematical problem. Female 92.0 8.0
27. Trial and error is not very useful in solving Male 37.5 62.5 .000 1 1.000
mathematics problems. Female 36.2 63.8
31. Mathematics is a good field for creative Male 93.3 6.7 .164 .686
people. '::emale 90.8 9.2
35. Learning mathematics involves mostly Male 49.1 50.9 1.314 .252
memorizing. Female 58.0 42.0
27
II
Figure 2: Responses of Males and Females to Statements regarding
Mathematics as a processoriented vesus ruleoriented subject.
,
80
70
60
cQ)
~ 50
Q) a..
40
30
20
10
o
item 1 item 4 item 7 item item item item item
15 20 27 31 35
Items
Third Research Question
oMale agree
mMale Disagree
Fa Female Agree
mFemale Disagree
For the third research question, ten items were included in this category to gauge
learners' responses regarding the usefulness and relevance ofmathematics. The results
are shown in Table IV. Although the data pertaining to this category did not show any
significant differences associated with gender, it still provided information on learners'
attitudes regarding mathematics. There was strong support from both males (90.2%) and
females (91.4%) regarding the usefulness of mathematics. This was also evident from the
responses obtained from items 18,25, and J2. The learners viewed mathematics as an
important component of every day existence. Interestingly, however, they seem to use
28
little mathematics outside school. This was evident from responses on item 5. in which
over half ofthe learners seemed to agree with the statement that they "use little
mathematics outside school". Furthennore, the data indicated an overwhelmingly support
for item 9. About 95% males and 99.1% females recognized that "most mathematics has
practical uses on the job". Over one third of the learners disagreed with the idea that
"most people do not use mathematics in their jobs." In general. the learners seemed to
recognize the important role that mathematics plays in society. This result is consistent
with the reports on attitudes towards mathematics (Lamphere. 1996).
Table IV
Responses ofMales and Females to Statements regarding the usefulness and relevance of
Mathematics
Statement Percent Responding '1: DF P value
Gender Agree Disagree
2. Mathematics is a useful subject. Male 90.2 9.8 .010 .921
Female 91.4 8.6
5. I use little mathematics outside school. Male 60.0 40.0 .055 .814
Female 57.6 42.4
9.Most mathematics has practical uses on Male 95.6 4.4 1.434 .231
the job. Female 99.1 .9
11.Most people do not use mathematics in their Male 27.3 72.7 .441 .506
jobs. Female 32.9 67.1
13.I would like to work at a job that lets me use Male 88.5 11.5 .685 .408
mathematics. Female 83.8 16.2
18. Mathematics is not needed in everyday life. Male 13.8 86.2 .003 .956
Female 15.0 85.0
23. It is important to know mathematics in Male 93.2 6.8 .660 .416
order to get a job. Female 96.5 3.5
25. Mathematics is useful in solving everyday Male 73.5 26.5 1.718 .190
problems. Female 63.8 36.2
30. A knowledge of mathematics is not Male 23.2 76.8 .000 1.000
necessary In most occupation :;"emale 23.7 76.3
32. I can get along well in everyday life without Male 32.4 67.6 .022 .882
mathematics. Female 34.3 65.7
29
Figure 3: Responses of Males and Females to Statement regarding the
usefulness and relevance of Mathematics.
80
C
OMaie agree
.uQ..) 60 a Male Disagree cQ..) Ii Female Agree
1m Female Disagree
40
item item item item item item item item item item
2 5 9 11 13 18 23 25 30 32
Items
Fourth Research Question
For the fourth research question, eleven items were included in this category (see
Table V). These items were desigr:J.ed to determine learners' perception of themselves as
learners of mathematics. In general, the learners' responses in this category showed a
positive trend in the way they perceive mathematics. Item 3, for example, indicated that
84.4% of the male learners and 85.8% of the female learners were, indeed, looking
forward to continuing with mathematics in grade 11. More males than females stated that
they disagreed with item 6. Encouraging were the responses to item 8. Over two third
(69.9%) of the female learners agreed that they, "can do more difficult mathematics,"
30
whereas, 61.5% of the male learners agreed. There was, however, a statistically
significant difference in the responses given by the males and females to item 12,
"mathematics is one ofmy difficult school subject,",l =4.030, P < .05. Sixtyseven
percent of the males disagreed with the statement while only 53.8% of the females
disagreed. Almost all of the learners seemed to do best in mathematics when compared to
their other schoolwork. Only 1.7% males and 6.8% females disagreed with item 14.
Responses to item 26 showed a statistically significant difference between male
and female learners, "'I: = 4.835, P < .05. More males (76.5%) agreed that it was easier to
talk in front of their mathematics class mates, whereas, only 62.2% females agreed.
Although the majority of the responses in this category were positive, there were,
however, disagreements regarding item 33. More females (61.1 %) seemed not to view
mathematics easier than any other school subject. Only 51.4% males shared the same
sentiment. Finally, more males seemed to strongly agree with the statement that they can
get good grades in mathematics. Slightly less than three quarters ofthe females agreed
with this statement.
31
Table V
Responses of Males and Females to Statements regarding Mathematics and oneself.
Statement Percent Responding
,
X DF P value
Gender Agree Disagree
3. I am looking forward to taking mathematics in Male 84.4 15.6 .013 .911
grades 11. Female 85.8 14.2
6. Mathematics is more difficult for me than it is Male 33.9 66.1 2.885 .089
for most other learners. Female 46.2 53.8
8. I think. I can do more difficult mathematics. Male 61.5 38.5 1.079 1 .299
Female 69.9 30.1
12 Mathematics is one ofmy difficult school Male 32.5 67.5 4.030 .045·
subjects. Female 46.2 53.8
14. I try to do my best schoolwork in mathematics. Male 98.3 1.7 2.612 .106
Female 93.2 6.8
16. No matter how hard I try, I cannot understand Male 22.6 77.4 2.983 .084
mathematics. Female 34.0 66.0
21 I cannot understand why some learners think Male 62.7 37.3 .000 1.000
mathematics is fun. Female 62.7 37.3
26. It is easy for me to talk in front of my Male 76.5 23.5 4.835 .028·
mathematics class. Female 62.2 37.8
28. I am often discouraged with my mathematics Male 41.8 58.2 .245 .621
schoolwork. Female 37.4 62.6
33. Mathematics is easier for me than any other Male 48.6 51.4 1.769 .183
school subject. Female 38.9 61.1
40. I can get good grades in mathematics Male 85.7 14.3 2.352 .125
Female 74.6 25.4
* Results significant at the p < .05 level.
32
4
Figure 4: Responses of Males and Females to Statement regarding
Mathematics and oneself
80 c::
Q)
~ 60
Q) c..
40
20
o
item item item item item item item item item item item
3 6 8 12 14 16 21 26 28 33 40
Items
Fifth Research Question
oMale
rsIMale
mFemale
mFemale
Six items were identified to detennine whether there were significant differences
between perception of learners in Ondangwa East and Ondangwa West regarding
mathematics as a maledominated field. The results are shown in Table VI. Only two
statistically significant differences were observed in this category. Like in the first
research question, item 10 revealed a significant difference between perception of
learners in Ondangwa East and Ondangwa West. Fewer learners in Ondangwa East
(36.7%) agreed with the statement that "Male are better at mathematics than female are."
compare to 62.0% in Ondangwa West.
33
Although items 17,22,24,29, and 34 did not reveal statistically significant
differences between perceptions of learners in Ondangwa East and Ondangwa West, the
results still provided infonnation on learners' attitudes and perceptions towards
mathematics. There was strong support from learners in Ondangwa West that men are
better in mathematics because they have more natural abilities in doing mathematics.
This was evident from responses given to items 10 and 17. Regarding item 22, more
learners from Ondangwa East (73.2%) disagreed with the statement that "Men are not
better than women as scientist and engineers." As for item 24, the majority ofthe learners
from both the regions disagreed that "It is hard to believe a female could be good in
mathematics." Finally, the overwhelmingly majority oflearners, however, seemed to
acknowledge the fact that "girls need to know mathematics just as much as boys do" and
"women are certainly logical enough to do well in mathematics."
34

m
Table VI
Responses of learners in Ondangwa East and West to Statements regarding Mathematics
as a maledominated field.
Statement Percent Responding X
2 OF P value
Region Agree Disagree
10. Male are better at mathematics than female are. East 36.7 63.3 7.348 .007
West 62.0 38.0
17. Boys have more natural abilities to do East 49.2 50.8 1.490 I .222
mathematics than girls. West 61.4 38.6
22. Men are not better than women as scientist and East 26.8 73.2 .062 .803
engineers. West 30.4 69.6
24. It is hard to believe a female could be good in East 37.1 62.9 .215 .643
mathematics. West 41.8 58.2
29. Girls need to know mathematics just as much as East 88.9 11.1 .169 .681
boys do. West 85.9 14.1
34. Women are certainly logical enough to do well East 64.9 35.1 .098 .754
in mathematics. West 62.6 37.4
* Results significant at the p < .05 level.
Figure 5: Responses of learners from Ondangwa East and West
to Statements regarding Mathematics as a maledominated field
Z4
100
90
80
70
 60 c:
Q) .u.. 50 Q) a..
40
30
20
10
0
OMaleagree
mMale Disagree
1m Female Agree
IiFemale Disagree
item 10 item 17 item 22 item 24 item 29 item 34
Items
Sixth Research Question
For the sixth research question, eight items were included in this category. These
items dealt with perceptions ofmathematics as a processoriented versus ruleoriented
subject. The data pertaining to this category did not show any statistically significant
differences associated with region. The results are shown in Table VII.
Overwhelmingly, learners agreed that mathematics is ruleoriented. This was
evident from responses obtained from items 1, 4, and 20. They, however, agreed,
"Mathematics helps me to think logically." Interestingly, both groups of learners tend to
support the idea that there are many different ways for solving mathematics problems. As
to whether "Learning mathematics involves mostly memorizing", only 46.7% of the
36

learners from Ondangwa East agreed, whereas, a majority (60%) from Ondangwa West
agreed.
Table VII
Responses of learners from Ondangwa East and West to Statements regarding
Mathematics as a processoriented versus ruleoriented subject.
Statement Percent Responding X2 OF P value
Gender Agree Disagree
1.Mathematics helps one think according to East 72.3 27.7 3.329 .068
strict rules. West 85.2 14.8
4. Mathematics follows a particular set ofrules. East 66.3 33.7 .523 .469
West 72.6 27.4
7. Mathematics helps me to think logically. East 90.9 9.1 .826 .364
West 85.8 14.2
15. There are different ways to solve mathematics East 94.5 5.5 .148 .700
problems. West 92.3 7.7
20. There is always a rule to follow in solving a East 93.4 6.6 .732 .392
mathematical problem West 89.2 10.8
27. Trial and error is Dot very useful in solving East 39.3 60.7 .103 .748
mathematics problems. West 34.5 65.5
31. Mathematics is a good field for creative people. East 90.8 9.2 .164 .686
West 93.3 6.7
35. Learning mathematics involves mostly East 46.7 53.3 3.367 I .067
memorizing. West 60.4 39.6
37
.
F
Figure 6: Responses of learners from Ondangwa East and West to
Statements regarding Mathematics as a processoriented versus rule
oriented subject
.
100
90
80
70
60
C
(1)
~ 50
Q)
Cl.
40
30
20
10
0
[J Male Agree
mMale Disagree
Ell Female Agree
1m Female Disagree
item 1 item 4 item 7 item item item item item
15 20 27 31 35
Items
Seventh Research Question
For the seventh research question, ten items were included to gauge learners'
responses regarding the usefulness and relevance of mathematics. The results are shown
in Table VIII. There was a statistically significant difference in the responses given by
learners from Ondangwa East and Ondangwa West to the statement, "I use little
mathematics outside school," (X2 = 3.956, P < 0.05). Slightly more than half of the
learners from Ondangwa East agreed with the statement while over two thirds of the
learners from Ondangwa West agreed.
On several of the items, the leamen; from both regions showed positive attitudes
towards mathematics. They, for instance, strongly viewed mathematics as a useful
38
subject. It was encouraging to observe that, in general, the learners recognized the
importance of mathematics and also the role that mathematics holds for their lives and for
their future careers. This was quite evident from the high percent agree responses from
most of the items in this category.
Table VIII
Responses oflearners from Ondangwa East and West to Statements regarding the
usefulness and relevance of Mathematics.
Statement Percent Responding X
2 DF P value
Region Agree Disagree
2. Mathematics is a useful subject. East 91.6 8.4 .050 .823
West 89.9 10.1
5. I use little mathematics outside school. East 52.1 47,9 3.956 .047·
West 65.8 34.2
9.Most mathematics bas practical uses on the job. East 98.2 1.8 .153 .695
West 96.5 3.5
II.Most people do Dot use mathematics in their jobs. East 33.3 66.7 .801 .371
West 26.1 73.9
13.I would like to work at a job that lets me use East 89.2 10.8 1.226 .268
mathematics. West 83.2 16.8
18. Mathematics is not needed in everyday life. East 13.9 86.1 .000 1.000
West 14.8 85.2
23. It is important to know mathematics in order East 94.8 5.2 .000 1.000
to get ajob. West 94.8 5.2
25. Mathematics is useful in solving everyday East 65.4 34.6 .983 .322
problems. West 73.0 27.0
30. A knowledge of mathematics is not necessary East 24.3 75.7 .012 .912
in most occupations West 22.6 77.4
32. I can get along well in everyday life withcmt East 34.0 66.0 .002 .960
mathematics. West 32.7 67.3
* Results significant at the p < .05 level.
39
&&
Figure 7: Resposes of learners from Ondagwa East and West to
Statements regarding the usefulness and relevance of Mathematics
•
80
c
~ 60
0:>
0..
40
20
o
item item item item item item item item item item
2 5 9 11 13 18 23 25 30 32
Items
Eighth Research Question
mMaleAgree
mMale Disagree
fa Female Agree
ED Female Disagree
For the eighth research question, eleven items were included (see Table IX).
These items were designed to determine learners' perception of themselves as learners of
mathematics. Surprisingly, the overwhelming majority of learners are looking forward to
doing mathematics in grade 11. One reason for this response could be attributed to the
importance that mathematics has for their lives and for their future careers (as reported in
the previous research question).
Sixtythree percent of learners from Ondangwa East agreed with the statement, "r
think I can do more difficult mathematics," while 68.5% learners from Ondangwa West
agreed. Only 40.7% of the learners from Ondangwa East agreed to the statement,
40
"Mathematics is easier for me than any other school subject," while 46.8% of the learners
from Ondangwa West agreed. For the most part, the learners seemed to have positive
attitudes regarding their abilities to do more and difficult mathematics.
Table IX:
Responses of learners in Ondangwa East and West to Statements regarding Mathematics
and oneself.
Statement Percent Responding X
2 OF P value
Region Agree Disagree
3. I am looking forward to taking mathematics in East 85.6 14.4 .000 1.000
grades 11. West 84.7 15.3
6.Mathematics is more difficult for me than it is for East 38.9 61.1 .038 .845
most other learners. West 41.1 58.9
8. I think I can do more difficult mathematics. East 63.0 37.0 .386 .534
West 68.5 31.5
12 Mathematics is one ofmy difficult school subjects. East 38.0 62.0 .083 .774
West 40.7 59.3
14. I try to do my best schoolwork in mathematics. East 93.2 6.8 1.168 1 .280
West 97.5 2.5
16. No matter how hard 1 try, I cannot understand East 25.5 74.5 .499 .480
mathematics. West 30.6 69.4
21 I cannot understand why some learners think East 61.3 38.7 .039 .844
mathematics is fun. West 64.7 35.3
26. It is easy for me to talk in front ofmy mathematics East 70.5 29.5 .040 .0841
class. West 68.4 31.6
28. 1am often discouraged with my mathematics East 35.2 64.8 1.415 1 .234
schoolwork. West 44.6 55.4
33. Mathematics is easier for me than any other school East 40.7 59.3 .626 .429
subject. West 46.8 53.2
40. I can get good grades in mathematics East 81.1 18.9 .000 1.000
West 80.2 19.8
41
80
C
Q>
~ 60
Q>
Q..
40
20
o
Figure 8: Responses of learners from Ondangwa East and West to
Statements regarding Mathematics and oneself
[J Male Agree
mMale Disagree
mFemale Agree
mFemale Disagree
item item item item item item item item item item item
3 6 8 12 14 16 21 26 28 33 40
Items
42
"
Interview Results
Interviews were conducted with fourteen grade 10 learners. During the interviews
each learner was asked to respond to the same set of questions. In each set of questions,
there were four main questions with several followup questions. The main questions
attempted to determine learners' attitudes towards mathematics and also to detennine
how the learners felt about mathematics. As mentioned in Chapter III, all the interview
sessions were recorded on audiotapes. The interview analyses were done from summary
comments written by the researcher after all the interviews were completed.
One ofthe noteworthy, although not surprising, findings of the interviews was the
message that mathematics is a useful subject. All fourteen interviewees indicated that
mathematics is useful and important. When asked to elaborate, almost all the learners
commented that mathematics is used in daily life. Among the examples cited were:
counting livestock, counting money, in the banking sector, and building and construction.
Ofmore interest is the fact that over half of the learners interviewed were
regarded as liking mathematics. Twelve of the fourteen interviewees felt strongly about
liking mathematics. They ranked mathematics as their favorite subject. When asked why
they liked mathematics, the most common response was that they will need mathematics
in their future careers. One learner said, "Mathematics is one of my favorite subjects.
Mathematics is all rules. I like rules. It helps keep order to everything."
Surprisingly, when asked ifboys have more abilities to do mathematics than girls,
the responses varied by gender. Three girls and one boy commented that there were no
differences between boys' and girls' abilit~ ~s to do mathematics. The reasons given by
one girl were, "We are all equal. We were all created equally by God." In addition, the
43
others said that it all depends on how an individual feels about mathematics. Three girls
and four boys agreed that boys have more abilities to do mathematics. On a followup
question, most responded by referring to their classroom experience. It seems that they
have noticed that boys were doing better than girls in their mathematics classes. In
addition, one learner commented that boys have the skills and understand better than
girls. Ofthe fourteen interviewed, one girl and two boys reversed the question. They,
instead, indicated that girls have more abilities to do mathematics than boys. Like the
previous group, they based their argwnents on their own classroom experience.
On the question of whether some people are naturally good in mathematics, there
were mixed responses.
44
CHAPTER IV
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Observations have shown that in Namibia, mathematics is one of the most poorly
learned subject in grades 10 and 12, especially among learners in fonner disadvantaged
regions. As mentioned in Chapter I, 51.9% of grade 10 learners from Ondangwa East
were ungraded in mathematics on the 1998 national final examination, while for
Ondangwa West it was 57.7%. Mathematics is a compulsory subject from grade 1
through grade 10. In grade 12, the socalled "good learners in mathematics" usually take
more mathematics. It was for this reason that the researcher decided to focus on grade 10
learners only. As indicated in Chapter I, the purpose of the study was to investigate grade
10 learners' attitudes towards mathematics in Ondangwa educational regions. The
participants for this study consisted of 248 learners. In order to investigate the learners'
attitudes towards mathematics, the following questions, which served to guide the
development of this study, were addressed:
1. Are there significant differences between perceptions of male and
female learners regarding mathematics as a maledominated field?
2. Are there significant differences between perceptions ofmale and
female learners regarding mathematics as a discipline?
3. Are there significant differences between perceptions of male and
female learners regarding the perceived usefulness and relevance of
mathematics?
45
4. Are there significant differences between perceptions of male and
female learners regarding themselves as learners ofmathematics?
5. Are there significant differences between perceptions of learners in
Ondangwa East and West regarding mathematics as a maledominated
field?
6. Are there significant differences between perceptions of learners in
Ondangwa East and Ondangwa West regarding mathematics as a
discipline?
7. Are there significant differences between perceptions of learners in
Ondangwa East and Ondangwa West regarding the perceived usefulness
and relevance of mathematics?
8. Are there significant differences between perceptions of learners in
Ondangwa East and Ondangwa West regarding themselves as learners
of mathematics?
Conclusions
There were various findings related to the study. Following is a summary of the
most important findings with a discussion of their relationship to the guiding research
questions mentioned above.
Of the six items dealing with perceptions of mathematics as maledominated field
only two revealed statistically significant differences between male and female learners.
The first significant difference was found when it was stated "males are better at
mathematics than females are." More male i tend to agree with the statement while the
46
majority ofthe females disagreed with the statement. The second significant difference
was found when it was stated "men are not better than women as scientist and engineers."
One particular note of interest was the way the learners responded to these six
items. The majority of both male and female learners possessed, generally, positive
attitudes towards mathematics. Most females, however, seemed to reject the notion that
men are better in mathematics than women and also that men have more natural abilities
to do mathematics. This finding is similar to the study ofKaiserMessmer (1993) who
found that the overwhelming majority of girls and boys consider women as equally
talented to do mathematics as men. From this result it can be inferred that female learners
are rejecting the stereotypical attitudes where they are perceived as less capable than
males in mathematics.
Regarding mathematics as a discipline, no statistically significant differences in
perceptions between male and female learners were found. There were, however,
interesting results. For example, the majority ofresponses from both genders seemed to
view mathematics as a ruleoriented subject. This was evident from responses obtained
when the learners were asked whether mathematics helps them to think according to strict
rules and also whether mathematics follows a set of rules. This result implied that the
teaching of mathematics is ruleoriented for most of the learners. The result reinforces
Lamphere (1996) and Telese (1999) findings. They both found that students held a view
that mathematics is ruleoriented. Therefore, suggesting that the teaching ofmathematics
is traditional for most learners. Most research on pedagogy argues for decreased
emphasis on teaching mathematics from a uleoriented point of view. Battista (1999)
wrote that traditional methods of teaching mathematics are ineffective and, therefore,
47
s
seriously stunt the growth of student's mathematical reasoning and problem solving
skills. Teachers may need to reexamine they instructional approach, practice, and
attitudes towards the teaching ofmathematics. It is evident that teachers' attitudes
towards mathematics, effectiveness in mathematics, and instructional practice are viewed
as being prime detenniners of learners' attitudes and perfonnance in mathematics.
As to the usefulness and the relevance of mathematics, no statistically significant
differences in perceptions between males and females were found. The findings showed
that the majority ofthe grade 10 learners, regardless of gender or region, possessed
positive attitudes towards mathematics. The vast majority of learners viewed
mathematics as important, useful, and relevant. These results were consistent with the
findings ofLamphere (1996) and Te)ese (1999). They found that students viewed
mathematics as a worthwhile endeavor that is an important component of their lives. This
result concurred with the result obtained from the interviews. The interview summary,
however, revealed that learners' knowledge about the usefulness of mathematics in "daily
life" was mainly limited to counting objects. These results are in accordance with the
work of Perlmutter, Bloom, Rose, and Rogers (1997), in which they revealed that the
students' awareness of the usefulness of mathematics was limited. More need to be done
in this regard. Furthermore, many learners realized the importance ofmathematics for
meeting career aspirations. This raises some more important questions. How does this
result reflect on learners' experience? Perhaps the academic expectations of the school
have made these learners focus on the doing of mathematics as an end in itself. The
learners should be made aware of the real .ife uses of mathematics as they progress
through lower grades. Do teachers illustrate the usefulness of mathematics in daily life? It
48
is important for the teachers to create a learning environment in which the learners
experience the usefulness and importance of mathematics.
Only two statistically significant differences were found between males and
females regarding their perceptions of themselves as learners of mathematics.
Interestingly, the results indicated that the female learners are generally positive about
themselves as mathematics learners despite the fact that mathematics had been
traditionally viewed as a maleoriented subject. The positive attitudes of females might
be due to the fact that females are being encouraged to learn more mathematics. Overall,
most respondents, regardless of gender or region, appeared to have strong, positive
attitudes regarding their abilities to do well in mathematics.
Regarding perceptions between learners in Ondangwa East and Ondangwa West,
the results in all the four categories are similar to the results dealing with gender. Only
two statistically significant differences were observed. One in the category dealing with
mathematics as a maledominated field, while the another one was found in the category
dealing with the usefulness and relevance of mathematics.It was encouraging to observe
that, for the most part, the learners responded very positively to the statements in all the
four categories that were used to measure they attitudes towards mathematics.
While the results of this study provide an optimistic picture regarding learners'
attitudes towards mathematics in Ondangwa educational region, there are, however,
implications for those in mathematics education. In order to keep with current
mathematics curriculum reform requirements and suggestions world wide, there is a need
to review the pedagogical approach to ma:~lematics topics. The application of
mathematics knowledge to real life situations needs to be addressed in grade 10
49
E
mathematics syllabi and in teacher education programs. Such approaches would enhance
understanding among learners and help them realize the usefulness and relevance of
mathematics in every day life.
Although for the most part both genders responded positively to the statements
regarding their attitudes towards mathematics, there is a need to close the gap between
boys and girls in the way they perceive mathematics. The learners should be encouraged
to develop skills in mathematics that would help them view mathematics as a dynamic
rather than a static subject. In order to facilitate such as approach, the current grade 8 10
mathematics curriculum needs to be reviewed and redesigned. In addition, mathematics
educators within both preservice and inservice teacher education need to take the
leading role.
Recommendations
The following recommendations are made for further study in this area for those
who are involved in mathematics education:
The results of this study indicated that attitudes of grade 10 learners in Namibia
were significantly positive. Because this study was exploratory in nature, a replication of
the study could be considered with a larger sampling of grade 10 learners across the
country. The results could then be compared to those of this study to determine if the
findings are consistent.
Attention should be given to the development of various instruments that may be
used in measuring learners' attitudes. For instance, a larger sample of interviewees should
be used. This might help to increase the v, lidity of the findings. Furthermore, a
50
longitudinal study (from grade 8 through grade 10) should be considered in order to
monitor attitudes over a longer period.
Further research is needed to examine more carefully the perceived impact that
teachers and parents have on attitude development, and the role that learning styles play.
Other variables that could be included are learners' sociademographic characteristics
and characteristics of individual classroom environment.
Although the results ofthis study revealed that learners have positive attitudes
towards mathematics, future studies could be undertaken to examine the factors that may
cause changes in attitudes.
Finally, it is the belief of the investigator that this study has been an
attempt to identify factors that might contribute to the poor state ofmathematics in
Namibia. Hopefully, educators and curriculum developers would flnd the information
necessary for improving and developing the mathematics education program.
51
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54
APPENDIX
55
APPENDIX A
QUESTIONNAIRE FOR THE LEARNERS
56
Questionnaire for the Learners
IMPORTANT: DO NOT WRITE YOUR NAME ON THIS PAPER.
Part I: General Information:
Name of the School: Name ofTownlVillage: _
Age:
Put an x in the box applicable to you
Gender: Male o Female o
Region: Oshikoto 0 Omusati 0 Ohangwena 0 Oshana 0
Part II: Directions: Read each of the following Statement.
Put an x in the box under" Yes" if you agree.
Put an x in the box under" No" if you disagree.
Put an x in the box under" Unsure" if you are not sure about the answer.
If you do not understand a question, you can ask the teacher who gave you this paper.
1. Mathematics helps one think according to strict rules.
2. Mathematics is a useful subject.
3. I am looking forward to taking mathematics in grades II.
4. Mathematics follows a particular set of rules.
5. I use little mathematics outside school.
6. Mathematics is more difficult for me than it is for most other learners.
7. Mathematics helps me to think logically.
8. I think I can do more difficult mathematics.
9.Most mathematics has practical uses on the job.
10.Males are better at mathematics than females are.
57
Yes No Unsure
1.0 0 0
2.0 0 0
3.0 0 0
4.0 0 0
5.0 0 0
6.0 0 0
7.0 0 0
8.0 0 0
9.0 0 0
100 0 0
Yes No Unsure
II.Most people do not use mathematics in their jobs. 110 0 0
12 Mathematics is one ofmy difficult school subjects. 120 0 0
13.1 would like to work at a job that lets me use mathematics. 130 0 0
14. I try to do my best schoolwork in mathematics. 140 0 0
15. There are different ways to solve mathematics problems. 150 0 0
16. No matter how hard I try, I cannot understand mathematics. 160 0 0
17 Boys have more natural abilities to do mathematics than girls. 170 0 0
18. Mathematics is not needed in everyday life. 180 0 0
19. My parent(s) want me to learn more mathematics. 190 0 0
20. There is always a rule to follow in solving a mathematical problem. 200 0 0
21 I cannot understand why some learners think mathematics is fun. 210 0 0
22. Men are not better than women as scientist and engineers. 220 0 0
23. It is important to know mathematics in order to get a job. 230 0 0
24. It is hard to believe a female could be good in mathematics. 240 0 0
25. Mathematics is useful in solving everyday problems. 250 0 0
16. It is easy for me to talk in front of my mathematics class. 260 0 0
17. Trial and error is not very useful in solving mathematics problems. 270 0 0
28. I am often discouraged with my mathematics schoolwork. 280 0 0
29. Girls need to know mathematics just as much as boys do. 290 0 0
30. A knowledge of mathematics is not necessary in most occupations. 300 0 0
31. Mathematics is a good field for creative people. 310 0 0
32. I can get along well in everyday life without rrwlhematics. 320 0 0
58
Yes No Unsure
33. Mathematics is easier for me than any other school subject. 330 0 0
34. Women are certainly logical enough to do well in mathematics. 340 0 0
35. Learning mathematics involves mostly memorizing. 350 0 0
36. My teacher encourages me to study more mathematics. 360 0 0
37. I like the mathematics textbook we are using in class. 370 0 0
38. My teacher helps me with mathematics' problems. 380 0 0
39. l always refer to the textbook or class notes when working on
mathematics problems. 390 0 0
40. l can get good grades in mathematic:;. 400 0 0
THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR TAKING TIME TO ANSWER TIDS QUESTIONNAIRE
59
APPENDIXB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARD FORM
60
1
Oklahoma State University
Institutional Review Board
Protocol Expires: 9121/01
Date: Friday, Seplember 22, 2000 IRB Application No EOOO20S
Propoul TiUe: A STUDY OF ATTITUDES AND INSTRUCTIONAL PRACTICE THAT INFLUENCE
PERFORMANCE OF l.ERANERS IN GRADE 10 MATHEMATICS
Principal
Invesligato~s) :
PoIlikarpus Polli Andlma
247 Willard
SUllWater, OK 74078
Dr. Patricia u.mpher&Jordan
247 Willard
Stillwater, OK 74078
Reviewed and
Procened as: Expedited (Spec Pop)
Approval Slalus Recommended by Revi4!wer(s) : Approved
Signature /]
~ ((]a¥1~,/
Carol Olson, OlfeClOrOIUl1JV,ty Research Compliance
Fnday, September 22,2000
Dele
Approvals are valid for one calendar year, aller which time a request tor conlinualJon must De suDmitted. Any modifications
10 the research proleCl approved by the IRB must be submitted for approval with the ad'"lofs SIgnature. The IRB offICe
MUST be notified in WIlting wnen a prOfect IS complete. Appro,ed prOfects are subJect to momlonnll by the IRS Expedited
and exempt projects may be re"ewed Dy tne full Institutional Re.ew Board.
61
'V
VITA
Pollikarpus Andima
Candidate for the Degree of
Master of Science
Thesis: A STUDY OF ATTITUDES TOWARDS MATHEMATICS AMONG
LEARNERS IN GRADE 10 IN NAMffiIA
Major Field: Curriculum and Instruction
Biographical:
Personal Data: Born in Windhoek, Namibia, March 5, 1967, the son of Simson and
Hulda Andima.
Education: Graduated from Dr. Lemmer High School, Rehoboth, Namibia, in
December, 1986; received the Senior Secondary Certificate; received the Higher
Diploma in Education from the University of the Western Cape, Bellville, South
Africa in 1992; completed requirements for the Master of Science degree in
Curriculum and Instruction at Oklahoma State University in May 2001.
Professional Experience: Mathematics Teacher at Otjikoto Senior Secondary School,
Tsumeb, Namibia 199394. Mathematics Lecturer at Ongwediva College of
Education 199597. Mathematics Lecturer at Windhoek College of Education
199899.