# The impact of college students' cultural and historical awareness on their perceived mathematics self-efficacy, motivation and achievement

This study assesses the impact of college students' cultural and historical awareness on their perceived mathematics self-efficacy, motivation and achievement. Their writing a term or discussion paper about mathematics from a cultural or historical perspective served as the primary medium upon which they based any changes in their reported levels of these self-concepts. Students in several freshman- and sophomore-level mathematics courses at American University were targeted for inclusion in this study during the Spring 2001 semester. Approximately 350 identical questionnaires were distributed, one to each student, that requested each recipient to voluntarily answer questions about his or her views on mathematics, with emphasis on cultural and historical aspects. Sixty-six students responded to the questionnaire, with 42 stating that they wished to write such a paper. Twenty ultimately did so and were interviewed about their views on mathematics. The response data indicate that students writing such a paper might improve their perceived mathematics self-efficacy, motivation or achievement, although the results are mixed: student transactional writing on mathematics from a cultural or historical perspective positively affects some students, but not others, with respect to these self-concepts. Some felt more comfortable with being able to do mathematics after writing a paper than before. Some felt that writing a paper increased their motivation to succeed in mathematics. Few felt that writing a paper positively impacted their perceived mathematics achievement. Some held mixed perceived mathematics self-concepts. The issue of parental involvement in students' mathematics education surfaced as a major mathematics motivational factor among those interviewees who are not United States nationals. Perhaps parents of mathematics students in the United States can learn from their counterparts in other countries in order to improve their children's mathematics education. Another factor was how students perceived the effectiveness of their mathematics teacher. Perhaps all mathematics teachers should become more cognizant of their students' perceptions in order to teach mathematics more effectively. Maybe more students will come to enjoy mathematics if they were to write such a paper, or maybe not. Nevertheless, many discovered that mathematics need not be viewed as just a collection of sterile facts and figures.