MATHEMATICS VERSUS THE ARTS: A COMPARATIVE LOOK AT STUDENTS' ATTITUDES AND BELIEFS
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The words that students use to paint a picture of mathematics are very different from those which they use to describe their experiences in art and music. In the views of students, mathematics is pointless and repetitive while the arts are creative, relaxing and an expression of themselves. This thesis reports on the findings of a two part research project designed to investigate the attitudes of high school students when learning mathematics, art and music. The focus of this study was a comparative look at their confidence and enjoyment in learning these subjects. A questionnaire was designed and developed for use in a study of students in the United States and England (n = 1226). The intent of this questionnaire, which contained seven Likert-type questions and one open-ended response, was an in-depth look at the existence of confidence and enjoyment in learning mathematics, art and music. The results indicated that, the highest frequency of students in the mathematics group were confident in their ability in mathematics but did not enjoy learning it. This study also found, however, that there were very low percentages of students that were confident in art and music but did not enjoy learning them. Additionally there was a high frequency of students who had no confidence in art but did enjoy learning it compared to a low frequency of students in mathematics who were not confident but enjoyed learning it. To further explore these findings, repertory grid interviews were conducted on a selection of questionnaire participants from the United States (n = 42). Honey's method of content analysis was used to analyse the data. Among the differences found between students' confidence and enjoyment in learning mathematics compared to the arts were their perceptions of the routine nature of their daily lessons in mathematics versus their active, creative, personally engaging experiences while learning art and music.
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