Free Essay: What Factors Can Affect Mathematics Achievement in Secondary Education?

Published: 2023-05-02
Free Essay: What Factors Can Affect Mathematics Achievement in Secondary Education?
Type of paper:  Literature review
Categories:  Students Mathematics Child development Stereotypes
Pages: 6
Wordcount: 1642 words
14 min read

Globally, it is a known stereotype that "Mathematics is a discipline for men," which has resulted in the low representation of women in areas relating to mathematics and sciences (Cvencek et al. 2015). This stereotyping of mathematics has had a significant impact on the performance of mathematics in high school students, regardless of gender (Cheryan et al. 2015). The perceptions of students regarding their academic abilities, especially in mathematics is vital in undertaking their academic tasks because their attitudes have the power to influence the extent of their efforts (Farrington et al. 2012). The performance of mathematics in Secondary education is significantly affected by several factors that will be discussed in this paper, such as self-perception, attitude towards Mathematics, Parent education level, parental support, and student's commitment to mathematics.

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Attitude Towards Mathematics

Mathematics is a subject that mainly deals with problem-solving; therefore, students' achievement may be significantly affected by their attitude towards the concept of problem-solving. The variable opinion is one of the most potent influences relating to performance in mathematics (Ma &Kishor, 1997). A student of mathematics is inclined to think and make decisions using the most appropriate strategies (Effandi & Normah 2009). It is a general concept that students with the right attitude towards mathematics will generally excel. Attitude towards mathematics can be brought out in different ways by the student and hinder achievement. First, patience towards problem-solving, students with high levels of tolerance in problem-solving are found to persevere until they work out the solution of the problem while those with no patience are bound to give up. Second, with gender stereotyping in mathematics, student's attitudes towards it are bound to be formulated along those lines; male students will have their confidence in their abilities boosted while the female students are more likely to give up before trying (Patterson et al. 2003).


Gender stereotyping in mathematics plays a significant role in the achievement and performance of mathematics in secondary education. The general perception of the society on gender abilities in mathematics influences the process of identification of the intellectual skills of the students (Beilock et al. 2010). With the influence of societal gender stereotyping in regards to mathematics, studies have shown that male students have a high self-concept than girls. With a high self-concept, boys are confident enough to share their ideas and solutions with other students, unlike girls (Zimmerman, 2013). Therefore, it can be concluded that boys have more confidence in their skills and abilities in mathematics. When a student has a high self-concept, the possibility of having a positive attitude and more commitment to mathematics is high (Nagy et al. 2010). The confidence in male students boosts their attitude towards mathematics hence high achievement, while low confidence witnessed among the female students contributes to their negative opinions.

Parents' level of education

According to research carried out by Education Matters (2004), there is a positive relationship between a student's performance in mathematics and the parents' education level. Also, other education-related variables include income, socioeconomic status, and occupation that directly affect a student's performance (Ma & Kishor 1997). Parents who have high levels of education have the high-income ability and hence widening the academic scope for the child and motivating academic achievements. Student-parent dynamics are significant in the performance of a student in mathematics. The education level of a parent can be perceived as a powerful indicator of a child's future educational achievement and behaviours ( Tsui 2005). Parents who are well educated tend to raise children with high self-perception, which is of great significance in the performance of mathematics (Eccles, 2005). Additionally, parents who have high levels of education engage their children intellectually and help them develop a positive attitude towards learning. Educated parents have confidence in the intellectual abilities of their children, which in turn boosts the confidence of the children in their skills.

Parental support and involvement

Parental roles in the students' achievement in mathematics can be explained through the context of their attitudes and views regarding mathematics and their expectations through their participation. Parental involvement in the learning and teaching of mathematics is more likely to be influenced by their perception of mathematics, which is value and higher chances of achievement in life (Hunt & Hu 2010). Wiener, in his Attribution Theory, states that parental involvement in mathematics depends heavily on the controllable and uncontrollable aspects related to the task and connected to the need for achievement (Wiener, 1972). Parental involvement and support of the student is said to be more important than the school itself when it comes to performance in mathematics (Eccles, 2005). Parental involvement in the performance in mathematics may be influenced by the characteristics of parent-child communication (Hoover et al. 1987). When parents have a role in the teaching and learning process of the student, they are more likely to take on involvement activities.

Study time

Another factor that affects the performance and achievement of a student in mathematics is the student's study time and commitment to maths away from school. Student commitment refers to the student's motivation to study mathematics (EM 2008). Commitment to learning mathematics plays a crucial role in the performance of a student. A committed student is more likely to allocate more study time for mathematics away from school. Students consider mathematics to be one of the most challenging disciplines in their learning program yet understand its importance (Haron 2001). With this in mind, it is safe to say that most students know that their achievement in mathematics is their responsibility hence the need to dedicate more study time to the subject. In this regard, however, research shows that compared to male students, female students are not committed to mathematics achievement. This low commitment is influenced by several factors such as societal stereotypes, which makes them assume mathematics is complicated and low self-perception which makes them have no confidence in their intellectual abilities. However, considering the complexity of mathematics as a subject in high school, the students must dedicate more time to study when they are away from school.

The performance and achievement in mathematics come down eventually to the student, with consideration of attitude confidence and commitment to the subject. Mathematics is generally perceived to be a male-dominated subject by society and, finally, the students. As discussed, this ultimately leads to the development of negative or positive attitudes towards the subject, depending on the gender of the student. If left unattended, this factor could keep promoting the idea that female students have inferior skills in mathematics compared to boys. Motivated students are those that possess a high self-concept when it comes to the study of mathematics. Additionally, it is the Parents and family play critical roles in the performance and achievement in mathematics depending on their education levels and their willingness and ability to get involved in the academics of their children. Parents are considered to have the ability to influence the children's self-perception and boost confidence in their intellectual skills.


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