Demographic Factors Affecting Freshman Engineering Students’ Attitudes Toward Mathematics at a University in Saudi Arabia
Alibraheim, Essa Abdullah
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This study of freshman engineering students enrolled at Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University (IAU) in Saudi Arabia investigated the relationship between the students’ attitudes and their demographic characteristics. Specifically, the study assessed the relationship between students’ demographic characteristics and how the characteristics related to five variables associated with attitudes toward mathematics: attitude toward success in mathematics, confidence in learning mathematics, mathematics anxiety, awareness of the usefulness of mathematics, and effectance motivation in mathematics. A total number of 157 male students enrolled in Calculus 1 participated in the survey. Findings revealed that the freshman engineering students had positive attitudes toward mathematics; furthermore, the results indicated that there are positive relationships between the fathers’ career types and all the five attitudes of the students toward mathematics. Also, the mothers’ career types and geographical regions had a positive relationship with students’ confidence in learning mathematics. In contrast, the findings indicated that there are a negative relationship between mothers’ educational levels and two of the students’ attitudes (confidence in learning mathematics and mathematics anxiety). Similarly, students’ attitudes toward success in mathematics were also impacted by their nationalities. Interviews with 26 participants helped the researcher to discover students’ ideas about the survey's questions in greater depth. The results of the interview indicate that the freshman engineering students’ attitudes are more affected by their fathers and their teachers. The reasons that form students’ attitudes toward mathematics can be divided into two parts: internal and external. The internal reasons result from the students themselves, which includes practice and preparation, assessments and grades, English language effect, time management, pride in themselves, competition with their colleagues, weak mathematical foundation, consideration of mathematics as a favorite subject, pressure of other courses, awareness of the relationship between mathematics in their daily lives and mathematics within other scientific subjects, awareness of the relationship between mathematics and their engineering major, and awareness of the benefit of mathematics in their future careers. The external reasons include teachers’ characteristics, parental support, and respect from their fathers.