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Achievement In And Attitude Toward High School Mathematics With Respect To Sex And Socioeconomic Status

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Purpose. A multivariate approach was used to investigate sex differences and socioeconomic status (SES) in high school mathematics achievement and attitude. These variables were also examined to see if they had an effect on the student's intention to continue in mathematics. Procedures. A random sample (N = 364) of students was drawn from the mathematics classes of a large California school district. This sample was compared with certain trace variables of two larger samples drawn from the district. The sample was found to be representative along these variables. The Fennema-Sherman and Sandman attitude tests were used to measure attitude toward mathematics. Achievement was measured by the student's grade. The reliability of the attitude tests was calculated. The attitude scales were checked for content validity using factor analysis. The descriptive statics were reported. The hypotheses were tested using chi-square, analysis of variance and analysis of covariance. Findings. (1) There was no significant difference in the number of males and females enrolled in the high school mathematics classes. (2) The intention to continue in mathematics was equally distributed with respect to males and females except for those enrolled in the highest level of high school mathematics. Enrollment rates dropped sharply irregardless of the sex of the student. (3) The females consistently achieved higher than males in all the math class levels. However, this difference was not significant. But, when achievement was covaried with attitude and SES, this difference was significant. (4) Achievement was found to differ significantly between those that intend to continue in mathematics and those that do not. But, again, there were no sex differences within these categories. (5) The mean achievement of the students became higher as the math class level also became more difficult. The mean achievement differences became smaller for the students who intended to continue in mathematics and those that did not as the mathematics level became more difficult. (6) The SES quarter of the student was significantly related to achievement in mathematics. (7) There was no significant difference in attitude between male and female students. Attitude toward mathematics became more positive with the higher mathematics class. (8) SES quarter was not related to attitude toward mathematics. (9) The mean SES was found to differ between mathematics class levels. The students of higher SES continue to be enrolled in mathematics. The lower SES student often does not continue past geometry. Recommendations. (1) An ex-post facto study of contemporary female mathematics and scientists should be undertaken to determine variables which are related to their decision to enter their profession. (2) A study to determine what ethnic or cultural differences may affect mathematics achievement and continuing in mathematics is recommended. (3) A longitudinal study should examine mathematics achievement, mathematics attitude, and continuing in mathematics. The sample should be followed from high school mathematics through college. (4) The effect of the number of required mathematics courses on the student's decision to continue further in mathematics should be examined.

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