The influence of classroom environment on high school students' mathematics anxiety and attitudes
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The purpose of this research was to examine the possible associations between the perceived classroom environment of high school students, the level of mathematics anxiety that they possess, and their attitudes towards mathematics. This marks the first time that these three fields of research have been simultaneously combined. Data were gathered from 745 high school mathematics students in 34 classes in high schools in the Southern California area using three instruments: the What is Happening In this Class? (WIHIC) learning environment survey created by Fraser, McRobbie, and Fisher (1996), an updated version of Plake and Parker's (1982) Revised Mathematics Anxiety Ratings Scale WRS), and a mathematics version of selected scales from Fraser's (1981) Test of Science-Related Attitudes (TOSRA). This revised attitude instrument was called the Test of Mathematics-Related Attitudes (TOMRA). Using statistical methods, the three instruments were checked for internal consistency reliability, factor structure, and discriminant validity. The RMARS and WIHIC were both found to exhibit good reliability and factorial validity in mathematics classrooms in Southern California, while the TOMRA yielded two scales of the four a priori scales, Enjoyment of Mathematics Lessons and Normality of Mathematicians, which met reliability and factorial validity standards. Within-class gender differences were analysed using paired t-tests combined with a modified Bonferroni procedure and effect sizes. Between- student gender difference were investigated using MANOVA. Simple correlation and multiple regression analyses were performed to identify possible associations between the learning environment and anxiety/attitudes scales. Qualitative data were collected from interviews and inductive analysis was performed in order to refute or corroborate the quantitative findings.Significant within-class gender differences were found in four areas of the learning environment (Student Cohesiveness, Task Orientation, Cooperation, and Equity), but no gender differences in attitudes were found. All four learning environment areas were perceived in a more favourable light by females than by males. Individual gender differences were similar, with a significant difference also being found in Teacher Support, as well as both types of mathematics anxiety, namely, Learning Mathematics Anxiety and Mathematics Evaluation Anxiety. In order to carefully identify the relationships between the classroom learning environment and mathematics anxiety, analyses were conducted for both factors of mathematics anxiety. While no association between the learning environment and Mathematics Evaluation Anxiety was found, there were significant associations between Learning Mathematics Anxiety and three areas of the learning environment: Student Cohesiveness, Task Orientation, and Investigation. Significant associations between the Normality of Mathematicians attitude scale and the learning environment scales Equity and Involvement were identified, while three areas of the learning environment (Investigation, Task Orientation, and Cooperation) had a significant relationship with Enjoyment of Mathematics Lessons. Qualitative data analyses confirmed relationships between anxiety, attitudes, and classroom learning environments. The data also suggest that the structure of the mathematical content is linked with the level of anxiety that high school students feel.
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