Attitude and Achievement in Mathematics, Self-Beliefs and Family: a path-analysis

Abstract The present descriptive study intended to evaluate the influence of: (1) attitudes and expectancies of parents towards children's academic performance, both in general and specifically in mathematics; and (2) the role of personal resources, such as control beliefs and self-concept; on students’ performance and attitudes towards mathematics. The sample comprised 94 students from 3rd, 5th, and 7th grades, along with their parents, from a private school in Campinas (São Paulo, Brazil). Data were obtained through surveillance in classrooms, questionnaires, and scales, and were subjected to univariate, multivariate, and structural equation models (path-analysis). The results indicated that attitudes towards mathematics became more negative as students advanced in school years. Likewise, younger students achieved better performance. Girls had a generally more positive attitude towards mathematics, but worse self-perception about their achievements, even when achieving superior performance in comparison to boys. Statistically significant interactions with positive correlations were found between parents’ attitudes and expectancies towards their children's academic performance and these children's self-beliefs and attitudes towards mathematics. Students’ personal resources seem to act as moderating variables, since self-concept and control beliefs appear to have strong effects not only on attitude towards mathematics, but also on academic performance in this subject. This work also emphasizes the importance of the educational institution in the construction of positive attitudes throughout the school years, by promoting positive personal experiences related to mathematics, in addition to working collectively with families to increase students’ own sense of competence and self-confidence.