Many studies have been done on math anxiety in college classrooms. We believed that student’s negative attitudes towards mathematics is a major barrier to their success in these college courses, so the two of us set out on a collaborative study of these attitudes and what we could do about them. The objective of this study was to see how students attitudes towards the beauty, power, usefulness, fun of mathematics in the course and the world around them change throughout a semester. The idea is that once we know if there is a change, we can enhance our classroom activities to increase the change.Methods and Results
Students were given attitude surveys at the start and the end of the semester. As well, they were asked to rate their confidence in their math skills for the previous week of work and to identify what activity (if any) helped then with the math they had used in class that week. No harm was done to these students! They increased their positive attitudes towards math throughout the semester. Traditional methods of teaching mathematics with many clear examples and in-class time to practice are successful in teaching the mathematics.Conclusions An Astronomy for liberal arts major and an introduction to computers course both increase students positive attitudes to mathematics. The students started off with attitudes that were more positive than we had thought they would. Students require thorough review of the basic math skills, with the need for in-class time to practice these skills repeatedly (drill) in the context of authentic questions relevant to the discipline.