An environmental and educational characterization of low achievers' experiences and attitudes toward mathematics performance using case studies

Andrea Pilar Aviles, Fordham University


This study investigated the relationship of attitudes toward mathematics performance to the familial and academic environments of eight students identified as mathematics low achievers admitted to Puerto Rico Junior College. The aspects considered in the study were prior experiences in the familial and/or academic environments. The identification of these students as low achievers was based on high school grade point average, CEEB mathematics scores, and mathematics diagnostic test scores. These students belong in the lower one sixth in level of achievement who were assigned to the researcher in the Math 111 course sessions at the Puerto Rico Junior College. The study was based on personal, familial, and academic observation and interviewing. The study also considered visits to the familial and former high school environments. Moreover, written documents, such as academic records and autobiographical statements, were carefully analyzed. The study was developed during one school year and considered the ideas and suggestions of Cross (1976, 1981), Goodman and Mann (1977), Thomas (1979), Shepard, Smith, and Vohir (1983), and Barnes (1983) in relation to personal and academic characteristics of the low-achieving student. The educational ideas of Tobias (1980) and Becker (1983) were considered in relation to the development of attitudes toward achievement as a result of previous educational experiences. Their ideas helped in the understanding and acceptance of mathematics low-achieving behavior. In the development of the study, eight questions were addressed in relation to performance, kind of family life, quality of schooling received, and self-concept related to family and academic events. These questions were not individually discussed, as they were interrelated. The study followed a naturalistic approach; students were observed in their natural environment; homes and former high schools were visited and observed in order to obtain a real view of these environments. For these activities, the ideas of Mead (1966), Sanday (1979), Guba and Lincoln (1981, 1985), Dobbert (1982), Spindler and Spindler (1982), Eby (1983), and Erickson (1984) were taken into account. These researchers considered the importance of the natural setting in studying academic problems. The findings of the investigation revealed that many students are misclassified. Familial and academic environments are closely related to the development of attitudes toward academic performance. When even one of these environments is improved, the level of achievement is improved.

Subject Area

Mathematics education

Recommended Citation

Aviles, Andrea Pilar, "An environmental and educational characterization of low achievers' experiences and attitudes toward mathematics performance using case studies" (1989). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8918437.