Research and Reports on Mathematics

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Influence of Prior Schooling on Undergraduate Biology Students’ Attitudes to Mathematics and Academic Performance

The interconnectivity between the nature and origins of mathematics and science cannot be overstated. Studies over the past decade have shown that approximately 50% of life science students lack confidence in their mathematical abilities, and as a result, often adopt a rigid attitude to learning mathematics. This study aimed to elucidate the possible reasons how students may have developed a particular attitude to learning mathematics and biology, and determine what effect this had on their academic performance. The study was framed using Bandura in 1977, self-efficacy theory. Students enrolled in an introductory biology course (n=254) were surveyed. Responses to survey items were matched to students’ final grades in mathematics and biology. It was found that a majority of students believed that their prior schooling was the most significant factor in shaping their attitudes to learning mathematics and biology. Students who characterised their prior schooling negatively, were more likely to have a negative attitude to mathematics, and achieve significantly lower grades in both mathematics and biology.

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