Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.

Department (Legacy)

Department of Teaching and Learning

Committee Chair

Karp, Karen, 1951-

Author's Keywords

Motivation; Attitudes toward mathematics; Elementary teachers; Mathematics; Preservice teachers; Rural education


Elementary school teachers--Kentucky; Mathematics--Study and teaching (Elementary)--Kentucky


This dissertation was a quantitative study with a sample of preservice elementary teachers from four universities in Kentucky. The purpose of this study was to investigate preservice elementary teachers' achievement goal orientations for learning mathematics and the relationship of those goals and their attitudes toward mathematics. A second goal of this study was to explore differences in the types of achievement goals and attitudes between rural preservice elementary teachers and their nonrural counterparts. Self-report instruments were administered to assess the level of three achievement goals – mastery, performance-approach, and performance-avoid, and three constructs of attitude – confidence in learning mathematics, usefulness of mathematics, and mathematics as a male domain. The participants also completed a questionnaire designed to determine their rural/nonrural educational background. The sample was divided into four subgroups based on locale: Appalachian rural, other rural, urban, and other nonrural. Results indicated that preservice elementary teachers were significantly higher in mastery goals than in performance goals, and that performance-avoid goals were significantly higher than performance-approach goals. These preservice teachers were also less confident in learning mathematics than a sample of female students pursuing a variety of majors (Eckard, 1995). Mastery goals were weakly to moderately correlated to all three constructs of attitude. A statistically significant difference between the Appalachian rural group and the other nonrural group for confidence in learning mathematics was also found, with the Appalachian rural group displaying less confidence. Furthermore, rural preservice teachers had less confidence and were more likely to view mathematics as a male domain than nonrural preservice elementary teachers. Since mathematics classes are traditionally performance-oriented, the result that preservice elementary teachers are high in mastery goals suggests a mismatch between personal and classroom goals that could result in negative attitudes toward mathematics and the adoption of maladaptive performance-avoid goals. The findings of this study suggest that mathematics educators teaching mathematics content courses for preservice elementary teachers from all locales should create a classroom climate that supports and encourages mastery goals. The characteristic of such a classroom align with the practices suggested by the NTCM Standards (1989, 1991, 2000).