From Jesse L. M. Wilkins & Xin Ma (2003):
“a person’s mathematical disposition related to her or his beliefs about and attitude toward mathematics may be as important as content knowledge for making informed decisions in terms of willingness to use this knowledge in everyday life.”

Each year students in Ontario write the Education Quality and Accountability Office's (EQAO) assessments.  These tests are aimed at students in grades 3, 6 and 9 and test literacy and mathematics skills.  Their results are publicly available and are broken down by province wide numbers, board numbers, regions/areas and even on an individual school basis.

EQAO Results for Mathematics
From 2011 - 2016 these results have shown a surprising, and disheartening, trend.
Using the most recent (2015-2016) data we can see that students in grade 3 tend to have a fairly high opinion of mathematics (63% for male students and 54% of female students) say they like mathematics.
In grade 6 these numbers drop to 57% for male and 42% for female students.
In grade 9 (academic level) we see a bit of an increase to 62% for males and 52% for females but if you look at the applied level in grade 9 it plummets to a heart-wrenching 39% for males and 30% for females.
Not surprisingly the percentages shown above are fairly consistent (and some even worse) when students are asked questions about their confidence in mathematics, their enjoyment of the subject and their thoughts on it's applications to the world around them.
This not only downward, but low percentages at the start, trend is sad and frustrating for those who know that not only is mathematics a useful subject, but it's also a highly beautiful and engaging one, if shown properly.

Gender Differences
While the stats for both male and female students decline as students go from grade to grade, the statistics for female students are consistently lower than those of their male counterparts.  There is a bigger belief that girls can't do math, they are not good at it and they don't enjoy it.  This is supported by significant research as well.


Parental Involvement
Research has shown a positive correlation (or affect) between parent's attitudes towards mathematics and their children's.  In this case positive just means that if a parent is confident and enthusiastic about math, then so is the child.  The opposite is also true.
However, on the EQAO less than 40% of students said that they spoke about mathematics at home with their parents.  Why? Most research points to the fact that parents are just as afraid and disillusioned with mathematics as their kids are.

Further Reading

  • Allen, Barbara; Johnston-Wilder, Sue. (2003). Mathematics Education. Routledge. Retrieved 14 November 2016, from:
  • Archambault, I., Janosz, M., Chouinard, R. (2012). Teacher Beliefs as Predictors of Adolescents' Cognitive Engagement and Achievement in Mathematics, Journal of Educational Research, 5(105), 319-328.
  • Dowling, Paul. (2002). Sociology of Mathematics Education. Routledge. Retrieved 14 November 2016, from:
  • Ernest, Paul. (2002). Philosophy of Mathematics Education. Routledge. Retrieved 14 November 2016, from:
  • Hanna, Gila. (2002). Towards Gender Equity in Mathematics Education: An ICMI Study. Springer. Retrieved 16 November 2016, from
  • Jesse L. M. Wilkins & Xin Ma (2003) Modeling Change in Student Attitude Toward and Beliefs About Mathematics, The Journal of Educational Research, 97:1, 52-63
  • Kaba, Y., & Sengül, S. (2015). Relationship Between Middle School Students' Mathematical Understanding and Mathematical Attitude. Egitim ve Bilim, 40(180).
  • Nadelson, S., Callahan, J., Pyke, P., Hay, A., Dance, M., & Pfiester, J. (2013). Teacher STEM Perception and Preparation: Inquiry-Based STEM Professional Development for Elementary Teachers. The Journal of Educational Research, 106(2), 157–168
  • Pang, X., Kozlow, M., Rogers, W.T. (2012). An Analysis of Questionnaire and Contextual Data for Grade 9 Students in the Academic and Applied Mathematics Courses: Report Prepared for the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO)
  • Tapia, M., Marsh II, George E. (2004), An Instrument to Measure Mathematics Attitudes, Academic Exchange Quarterly, Summer 2004: Volume 8, Issue 2
  • Van Voorhis, Frances L. (2011). Adding Families to the Homework Equation: A Longitudinal Study of Mathematics Achievement, Education and Urban Society 43(3) | 313–338