Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)


Education/Leadership in Urban Schools

First Advisor

John Leonard

Second Advisor

Tricia Kress

Third Advisor

Stanley Dick


Student interest in pursuing advanced studies and careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) has garnered much attention lately from government, business, and education leaders due to inadequate flow in the United States' STEM pipeline. Existing research points to mathematical self-efficacy and to mathematical self-concept beliefs as integral to the likelihood that a student will pursue a career in a STEM field. Students' identities, such as the "good-math-student" identity need to be verified in order for students to enact them. Both identity verification and attitude are influenced by self-efficacy and self-concept. Existing research also points to teachers, parents, and peers as influencers of attitude. The current study seeks to add student voice, to this discussion - a feature that is largely absent from the literature.

Year-end mathematics grades from grade 4 on were analyzed for 588 juniors and seniors currently enrolled in Revere High School and used to assign each student to a researcher defined performance category. All students were then surveyed and forty-two subsequently participated in focus group discussions. SPSS and Weft QDA were used to analyze the quantitative and qualitative data respectively. Relationships among variables were identified using crosstab tables with Chi-Square tests. Qualitative data was coded and analyzed for trends.

Analysis shows that teachers have the strongest impact on student attitude toward mathematics. Attitudes are unstable and can vary with a change in teacher. Teachers who engage students in hands-on activities with real-world applications, who make students feel supported, who demonstrate passion for the subject, and who provide one-on-one attention have a positive effect on attitude toward math. Parents, especially fathers, impact attitude to a lesser degree and peers have very little influence on attitude. Surprisingly, students report older siblings as influencing their mathematics attitudes. Students in this study report higher self-concept beliefs than they do self-efficacy beliefs. Despite a generally positive attitude orientation among subjects, data show mathematics performance declines over the first three years of high school. Regarding mathematics, boys report more positive attitudes and have higher self-efficacy beliefs; special education students have decreased self-concept and decreased self-efficacy beliefs.