Students’ Attitudes towards Mathematics at a Historical Black University (HBU)


Jonah Mutua

Jonah Mutua is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Developmental Education program at Texas State University with a specialization in developmental math.  He earned his M.S. from the University of Texas at Dallas. Jonah taught mathematics at Dallas Community College 2011-2012 and Huston-Tillotson University in Austin from 2012 to present. His research interests involve finding better and practical ways to teach fractions and quadratic equations to college algebra students.

This study attempted to examine if there is any relationship between students’ attitudes towards mathematics and their midterm scores in mathematics. Students’ attitude affects how they overcome academic challenges and their ability to adopt to changes (Bramlett and Herron, 2009). For example, students with a negative attitude tend to give up easily. On the contrary, students with a positive attitude are self-motivated and attempt numerous problems to improve on their speed and/or accuracy in solving mathematical problems. A positive attitude is a catalyst, which inspires students to achieve their goals (Ma & Kishor, 1997).

Theoretical Framework

The Operant Conditioning Learning theory guided this study. According to Bramlett and Herron (2009), the Operant Conditioning Learning theory explains that students’ behavior (attitude) is modified by positive or negative reinforcing. Bramlett and Herron found that when students interact with “role models” who are pursuing a major in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) on regular basis (weekly or monthly), they appreciate mathematics more, devote additional efforts in understanding concepts, and tend to complete their homework on time regularly. The interactions can occur in an informal setting, for example, in a mathematics learning center or in a formal setting like a classroom.  Research questions: 1.What is the relationship between students’ attitude towards mathematics and their midterm scores in mathematics. 2. Is there any difference between male and female students’ performance?


Participants were recruited from a Historically Black University in central Texas. A total of 65 students participated in the study, 34 (52.3%) were male and 31 (47.7%) were female. All participants were freshmen enrolled in developmental mathematics courses. The average age of freshmen students at this institution is 18.5 years old. Students’ participation in the study was voluntary.

Discussion and Conclusion

The purpose of the study was to examine if there is any relationship between students’ attitude towards mathematics and their midterm scores in mathematics. The study found that students’ confidence in doing mathematics was a necessary attribute for students’ performance in midterm examinations. This conclusion is in agreement with previous studies on attitude towards mathematics and sciences (Bramlett & Herron, 2009; Tapia & Marsh, 2004; Ma & Kishor, 1997). Students’ ability to value mathematics was the next highest attribute required by a student to excel in midterm mathematics test. However, student’s gender had p > 0.05 implying that gender was not a significant factor in determining students’ score on the midterm test.


Bramlett, D. C. & Herron, S. (2009). A study of African-American College students’ attitude towards mathematics. Journal of Mathematical Sciences & Mathematics Education, 4(2), 43-51.

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), 27-47.

Tapia, M., & Marsh II, G. E. (2004). An instrument to measure mathematics attitudes. Academic Exchange Quarterly, 8(2), 130-143.