Exploring underachieving students’ views of, and attitudes towards, mathematics across stage of schooling

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Students enjoy mathematics less as they move through their schooling and this may be reflective of more negative attitudes towards learning mathematics in general; although not necessarily less valuing of mathematics as a discipline. However, little is known about how stage of schooling influences the relationship between viewing mathematics as problem solving and student attitudes towards mathematics. To address this gap, 123 Australian primary and secondary students identified by their teachers as underachieving in mathematics completed a questionnaire exploring their attitudes towards, and views of, mathematics. We found that although attitudes towards mathematics became more negative as year level increased, this was entirely driven by students enjoying mathematics less; neither their valuing of mathematics, nor their ability to cope with mathematics declined. Similarly, the extent to which students held a problem-solving view of mathematics was unrelated to stage of schooling. Interestingly, however, we also found that students who viewed mathematics as being fundamentally about problem solving were more likely to value mathematics as a discipline, and that this was particularly the case for secondary school students. We discuss how providing opportunities for secondary school students, including underachieving students, to engage with open-ended problem-solving tasks may lead to perceptions of mathematics as useful, purposeful, and important.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)240-257
Number of pages18
JournalAsian Journal for Mathematics Education
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023


  • mathematics education
  • attitudes
  • values
  • enjoyment
  • problem-solving
  • student perspectives

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