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Open Access Publications from the University of California

World Cultures eJournal

UC Irvine

Pictures of Hearts and Daggers: Strong Emotions Are Expressed in Young Adolescents’ Drawings of their Attitudes towards Mathematics

  • Author(s): Stiles, Deborah A.
  • Adkisson, Jamie L.
  • Sebben, Daniel
  • Tamashiro, Roy
  • et al.

Enthusiasm for learning mathematics often declines in early adolescence. The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) (2003) found that 50% of fourth-graders but only 29% of eight-graders agreed strongly with the statement, “I enjoy learning mathematics.” The present study explored attitudes towards mathematics through the use of adolescents’ drawings and assessed the reliability and validity of drawings of math. One hundred twenty-nine U.S. students (mean age = 13.7 years) responded to these instructions, “Draw a picture of math and write about math. You can draw your feelings about math and your experiences with mathematics.” Drawings were scored by independent raters according to sixteen criteria; with interrater reliability ranging from .67 to 1.00. One hundred and one students also expressed their levels of agreement on a four-point scale with the TIMSS statements about learning, valuing, and enjoying mathematics. Attitudes towards mathematics expressed in drawings significantly correlated with attitudes expressed in the TIMSS statements about mathematics. On their drawings many students expressed strong feelings about math ranging from “I absolutely love math!” to “You die math.” This study demonstrated that adolescents’ drawings provide a good means for assessing young adolescents’ thoughts and feelings about math. The study also included comparisons of drawings of mathematics collected from 96 young adolescents from Ghana and South Africa.

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