Mathematical Dispositions

Learn how teacher dispositions can affect student learning of mathematics. A student disposition's relationship to achievement is also discussed.
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Updated on: November 29, 2007
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A critical goal for teachers providing mathematics instruction is to foster positive student dispositions toward mathematics learning. Desirable student dispositions include:

  • seeing the world mathematically

  • willingness to take risks and explore multiple problem solutions

  • persistence with challenging problems

  • taking responsibility for reflecting on one's own work

  • an appreciation for the communicative power of mathematical language

  • willingness to question and probe one another's thinking about ideas

  • willingness to try different tools for exploring mathematical concepts

  • having confidence in one's abilities

  • perceiving problems as challenges (NCTM, 2000; Martinez & Martinez, 1996)

Teachers know that students' attitudes toward math can range from enthusiasm, interest, and confidence to dislike, rigidity of thought, avoidance, anxiety, and even phobia. What makes the difference? In addition to success with difficult tasks and positive performance feedback, as described previously, there is evidence that teachers' beliefs about their instructional efficacy predicts levels of academic achievement, regardless of level of student ability (Ashton & Webb, 1986). Teachers with a high sense of instructional efficacy tend to view all students as teachable, believe they can overcome negating community influences through effective teaching, devote more classroom time to academics, maintain an orderly classroom, encourage struggling students, hold high expectations, and encourage student self-direction (Bandura, 1997). Teachers working with students with mathematics learning problems should choose significant and interesting topics, focus on understanding, have high but reasonable expectations, help students set and monitor learning goals, and acknowledge student achievements.

Further enhance your math curriculum with more Professional Development Resources for Teaching Measurement, Grades K-5.