Studying attitude to mathematics

Research paper by Moyra Ruffell, John Mason, Barbara Allen

Indexed on: 01 Jan '98Published on: 01 Jan '98Published in: Educational Studies in Mathematics


Teachers' attitude to mathematics is increasingly put forward as a dominant factor in children's attitudes to mathematics. Our intention at the beginning of this study was to produce instruments for teachers to use in probing student attitudes as part of their personal professional research and development. To this end we undertook eight small studies of attitude carried out across the educational phases, which we report on here. Reflecting on them led us to challenge the very construct of attitude. We are also led to challenge the cause-and-effect model underlying much attitudinal research. We now see attitude as at best a complex notion, and we conjecture that perhaps it is not a quality of an individual but rather a construct of an observer's desire to formulate a story to account for observations. The difficulty in making attitudinal research precise, and in testing the validity of attitudinally based conjectures, lies therefore in conceptual and hence methodological issues.