09 SES 02 C, Relating Home and School Learning Environments to Educational Achievement
Attitudes towards mathematics can be described as “an aggregated measure of a liking or disliking of mathematics, a tendency to engage in or avoid mathematical activities, a belief that one is good or bad at mathematics, and a belief that mathematics is useful or useless” (Ma & Kishor, 1997, p.27). There is convincing evidence to suggest that maths achievement in children may be influenced by these attitudes. For example, Dowker, Bennett, & Smith, (2012) reported that low self-perceptions of mathematical ability among 10- and 11-year-old students were significantly associated with reduced maths performance scores, as well as dislike of maths and anxiety about maths activities. Similar findings have also been reported for younger student cohorts (Thomas & Dowker, 2000). For example, Krinzinger, Kaufmann, & Willmes, (2009) demonstrated a strong positive association between self-perception of mathematical ability and maths performance at age 6 and age 7. In Ireland, Clerkin and Creaven (2013) found that Grade 4 students reported more negative attitudes to maths than their peers in many other countries. This was particularly the case for Irish boys. More positive attitudes, both in Ireland and internationally, were linked to higher maths achievement. Promoting positive student attitudes towards mathematics is also highly relevant to industry concerns regarding low uptake of mathematics and science courses at third-level and achievement in these domains (e.g., Engineers Ireland, 2010).
Separately, previous studies support the influence of early numeracy and spatial activities on mathematical achievement. Among them, Grissmer et al., (2013) reported improvements in mathematics skills following an intervention that promoted play with visuospatial toys such as Lego and Wikki Stix, while Verdine et al. (2014) found that spatial assembly skills using blocks predicted mathematical performance in 3-year-olds. Furthermore, path analyses of data from TIMSS 2011 (Trends in International Maths and Science Study) show that, across many countries, parental reports of early learning activities (a measure incorporating both literacy and numeracy activities) were positively related to estimates of the child’s early ability, which in turn were positively related to mathematics achievement in Grade 4 (Gustafsson, Hansen, & Rosén, 2013). Overall, while there is convincing evidence supporting an association between early numeracy activities and mathematical skill, few of these studies have included measures of children’s attitudes.
This paper extends previous findings by exploring the relationship between children’s attitudes towards mathematics in Grade 4 and their engagement in early numeracy activities (including spatial- and numeracy-related play) before beginning primary school. It aims to provide a snapshot of the frequency of various early numeracy activities experienced by Irish children relative to their peers internationally, and to explore differences relating to gender, socioeconomic status and other characteristics of the home environment.
Clerkin, A. & Creaven, A-M. (2013). Pupil engagement. In E. Eivers & A. Clerkin (Eds.), National schools, international contexts: Beyond the PIRLS and TIMSS test results (pp. 33-54). Dublin: Educational Research Centre. Dowker, A., Bennett, K., & Smith, L. (2012). Attitudes to Mathematics in Primary School Children. Child Development Research, 2012, 1–8. Engineers Ireland. (2010). Report of the task force on education of mathematics and science at second level. Dublin: Engineers Ireland. Grissmer, D., Mashburn, A., Cottone, E., Chen, W., Brock, L., & Murrah, W. (2013). Play-based after-school curriculum improves measures of executive function, visuospatial and math skills and classroom behavior for high risk K-1 children. Presented at the The Society for Research in Child Development, Seattle, WA. Gustafsson, J., Hansen, K., & Rosén, M. (2013). Effects of home background on student achievement in reading, mathematics and science at the Fourth grade. In M. Martin and I. Mullis (Eds.), TIMSS and PIRLS 2011: Relationships among reading, mathematics and science achievement at the Fourth grade – Implications for early learning (pp. 181-287). Chestnut Hill, MA: TIMSS & PIRLS International Study Center, Boston College. Krinzinger, H., Kaufmann, L., & Willmes, K. (2009). Math Anxiety and Math Ability in Early Primary School Years. Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment, 27(3), 206–225. Ma, X., & Kishor, N. (1997). Assessing the Relationship between Attitude toward Mathematics and Achievement in Mathematics: A Meta-Analysis. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 28(1), 26-47. Thomas, G., & Dowker, A. (2000). Mathematics anxiety and related factorsin young children. Presented at the British Psychological Society Developmental Section Conference, Bristol. Verdine, B., Golinkoff, R., Hirsh-Pasek, K., Newcombe, N., Filipowicz, A., & Chang, A. (2014). Deconstructing Building Blocks: Preschoolers’ Spatial Assembly Performance Relates to Early Mathematical Skills. Child Development, 85(3), 1062-1076.
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