At Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University Very diverse socio-economic circumstances, mostly non-native English speakers. 23 Different languages on campus.

Why this study? There has been a large issue of poor performance and lack of engagement in mathematics.

What can we do about this?

Possible issues:

  • Topics are introduced at a fast pace
  • Students may not have the necessary prerequisites
  • Independent learning is required

Two other issues:

Mathematics self-efficacy:

Self-efficacy is people’s judgements of their capabilities to organise and execute courses of action required to attain designated types of performance (Bandura 1986).

Mathematics self-efficacy affects performance.

This can tell us why students sometimes don’t put in the necessary effort. If a student DOES have a high level of mathematical self-efficacy they tend to work longer on problems.

There does seem to be a link between mathematics self-efficacy and gender: Higher in males (grade 10-12 and pre-service teachers – Malpass, O’Neil and Hocenar: Self‐regulation, goal orientation, self‐efficacy, worry, and high‐stakes math achievement for mathematically gifted high school students) – in another study this was not found.

Mathematics Anxiety

A state of nervousness or discomfort brought upon by the presentation of mathematical problems (Hoffman – 2010)

There also seems to be a link with gender – though some found that there was no difference.

Method of the study

Quantitative analysis:

  • Voluntary, paper-based questionnaire was administered during a lecture period
  • Average scores for both constructs were calculated
  • Statistical analysis performed
  • Of the 41 students: mostly spoke English and Afrikaans, the rest were made up of other African languages. Almost equal gender split. Mostly straight out of highschool.

Demographic information taken

Mathematics self-efficacy and anxiety questions: Scored from 1-5 on Likert scale – 25 statements.

Performance measured: Class mark and examination mark contributed equally to final mark.

Calculated Cronbach’s coefficient alpha.


  • Mathematics self-efficacy: Mean composite self efficacy score: 3.48
  • Mathematics anxiety: Mean composite self efficacy score: 2.66
  • Final scores: most passed
  • Correlation analysis between performance and mathematics self-efficacy: r=0.294
  • Correlation analysis between performance and mathematics anxiety: r=-0.331
  • Regression analysis didn’t find any statistical significance.
  • Binarising mathematics anxiety and pass/fail, there was a significant correlation.
  • Self-efficacy and gender: No significant difference, nor with anxiety and gender


Reasons for the absence of statistically significant relationship among the constructs and performance: Participants were mathematically strong, already successfully completed a first semester course. Males are more reluctant to admit their anxiety which could influence the relationship between mathematics anxiety and performance.

Future research:

Work with groups with a wider range of abilities – compare the findings across the groups.

How clear is this post?