Values secondary students attribute to the trials and triumphs in their mathematics education
Student achievement in mathematics is impacted by numerous factors, not the least of which includes their emotional experiences, and thus developed beliefs, surrounding the value gained from having experienced both struggle and triumph in mathematics. Although there is an immense amount of research focused on negative academic emotions, such as those surrounding math anxiety, research is lacking in the exploration of positive academic emotions, directly linked to value, in relation to student perceptions of their mathematics education. The purpose of this study was to explore the values students attribute to their learning of mathematics. Focused on high school students, grades 10 through 12, an explanatory sequential mixed methods approach was implemented here whereby quantitative data, collected using an online survey, was used to identify themes for further exploration in online qualitative interviews. Participants were queried regarding their personal definitions of success in relation to mathematics, their perceived barriers to success in this subject area, and the valuable lessons they learned throughout their mathematics education. Values identified in this study were based on standards that appeared to guide student behaviors in relation to their learning of mathematics or act as rationale for the judgement of others, along with principles surrounding what students believed to be important. This research revealed that students value finding purpose or meaning to their mathematics education within the context of its study, and in relation to real-life experiences. Next, participants found merit in improving their work ethic through perseverance and dedication. Personal growth, arising from learning from ones’ mistakes and developing strategies, such as self-advocacy, to overcome ones’ barriers, led participants to develop an appreciation for mathematics both as a subject and as a discipline. Too, supportive relationships, both inside and outside of the classroom, were important to students here. Held in high regard by participants were teachers whom genuinely cared for their students as individuals, employed varied teaching methodologies, and nurtured a safe, supportive classroom environment. This paper elaborates on these findings and how they were determined, outlines the significance and limitations of the study, and provides recommendations for further research.