A Systematic Review of Secondary Students’ Attitudes Towards Mathematics and its Relations With Mathematics Achievement


  • Run Wen
  • Adam K. Dubé


For a significant number of students, attitudes towards mathematics decrease notably during secondary education. Thus, there is an urgent need to improve students’ mathematics attitudes because attitudes may negatively affect conceptual understanding of mathematics or mathematics performance. However, without a clear unified construct of mathematics attitudes, the ambiguity surrounding this construct prevents researchers from drawing broad conclusions about how to improve students’ overall mathematics attitudes. Therefore, we conducted a systematic review of 95 studies focused on mathematics attitudes to clarify the construct and measurement of mathematics attitudes, and to provide a holistic picture of the relations between mathematics attitudes and math achievement. The review suggested the adoption of a multidimensional definition that regards mathematics attitudes as a combination of specific mathematical cognitions (value, gender roles/beliefs, confidence, self-concept), affects (enjoyment, anxiety), and behavioural intentions (i.e., willingness and tendency to spend more time learning mathematics subjects). The review then explored the relations between each subdimension of attitudes and mathematics performance. In general, anxiety and gender roles were negatively correlated with mathematics performance (r = -.27 to -.48; -.21) whereas enjoyment, self-concept, confidence, perceived value, and behavioural intentions were positively related to achievement (r = .27 to .68; .21 to .76; .34 to .42; .11 to .30; .21 to .34, respectively). Thus, mathematics attitudes appear to comprise three components with several subdimensions that each uniquely contribute to mathematics achievement. Going forward, researchers of mathematics attitudes should a) specify the components of mathematics attitudes used to guide their investigation b) adopt measures in line with their chosen components, and c) investigate how each subdimension of mathematics attitudes uniquely and cumulatively contribute to mathematics ability.