Math Attitudes in Undergraduate Students Enrolled in Introductory Geoscience Courses

Molly M. Jameson, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
University of Northern Colorado

Need: Math attitudes are intricately related to success in science, but this relationship has not been explored in geoscience. To recruit, retain, and graduate more students in geoscience, students’ levels of math anxiety and math self-efficacy are critical factors to explore. This may be particularly true for some subgroups of students who have been historically underrepresented in geoscience, particularly women.

Guiding Questions: 1. In a sample of 245 undergraduate students enrolled in introductory geoscience courses, what is the relationship between math anxiety, math self-efficacy, geoscience self-efficacy, and geoscience interest? 2. From a subset of 40 of these students, how do their previous experiences with math relate to their current math attitudes?


  1. Math anxiety, math self-efficacy, geoscience self-efficacy, and geoscience interest are significantly related to one another, particularly for women. Students with high math anxiety are more likely to have low geoscience self-efficacy and interest. While geoscience self-efficacy is the strongest predictor of geoscience interest, math self-efficacy is an important factor for interest, again particularly for women.
  2. Through analysis of students’ written math narratives, we identified four math attitude categories, which integrated students’ math-related thoughts, emotions, and physiological responses. Thriving students liked math and viewed themselves as successful in math. Agonizing students disliked and avoided math and perceived themselves as unsuccessful in math. Persisting students disliked math or perceived that they were not good at math; however, they expressed having strategies to work through math problems. Transforming students had previous perceptions and emotions about math and are in the process of changing those perceptions and emotions.
  3. The first question and outcome will be submitted for publication in April 2022. The second question and outcome will be submitted for publication in May 2022.

Broader Impacts: Both the quantitative and qualitative findings from our research provide valuable insight into students’ integrated math attitudes within the geoscience classroom. These findings can guide instructional interventions to reduce math as a barrier to student success in college-level geoscience classes. In addition, these findings shed light on math as a barrier for women in geoscience.


Julie Sexton, University of Colorado-Boulder, Boulder, CO; Dina London, University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, CO; Jennifer Wenner, University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, WI