Mathematics achievement emotions Do they differ by gender and grade level

Çalık, Başak
Çapa Aydın, Yeşim
Contribution Emotion is an important affective construct that needs to be explored especially in academic settings (Goetz, Zirngibl, Pekrun & Hall, 2003) Academic or achievement emotion, based on Reinhard Pekrun’s control-value theory, has been defined as “Emotions that are tied directly to achievement activities or achievement outcomes” (Pekrun, 2006, p.317). Among emotions, anxiety – particularly test anxiety – has been extensively studied in the literature. However, other achievement emotions (that is, enjoyment, pride, anger, boredom, hopelessness, and shame) have not gained enough attention despite their significance in the academic environment. There is still lack of evidence about which emotions are experienced in educational environments (Goetz, Zingibl, Pekrun, & Hall, 2003). Due to involving abstract concepts as a result of its nature, mathematics as an academic domain is highly influenced by the affective variables (Kleine, Goetz, Pekrun, & Hall, 2005). Furthermore, students were expected to experience less enjoyment and interest in mathematics compared to other subject areas (Tulis & Ainley, 2011). Emotions are described as a multifaceted phenomenon that is comprised of affective being the central, cognitive, physiological, motivational, and psychological processes (Pekrun, Goetz, Titz & Perry, 2002; Pekrun, Goetz, Perry, Kramer, Hochstat, & Molfenter, 2004). Besides, achievement emotions are based on Pekrun’s control-value theory (2006) attempting to provide a dynamic system within which is consisted of cognitive appraisals, situational antecedents, learning and achievement proposing a reciprocal relationship between those elements as results of feedback loops in the model (Pekrun, 2006). Moreover, emotions influence cognitive, motivational, and regulatory processes, personality development, and social climate in classrooms, life satisfaction, student interest, and engagement (Meyer & Turner, 2002; Pekrun et al., 2002; Pekrun, 2006; Turner & Schallert, 2001). Nevertheless, there are few studies on individuals’ achievement emotions regarding grade level and gender. Although the structure and the related components of emotions are equivalent on both studies, the results revealed differences on those environmental factors. Frenzel, Pekrun, and Goetz (2007) examined the patterns of mathematics emotions on fifth grade students based on the assumption that there are gender differences between students’ emotions due to their control and value beliefs in this subject domain. Findings of the study indicate that girls displayed less enjoyment and pride, but more anxiety, hopelessness, and shame. Goetz, Frenzel, Hall, and Pekrun (2008) studied with 1380 German students from fifth to tenth grade on three different tracks of German school system. Results indicate that boys’ class-related math enjoyment was significantly higher than girls whereby girls displayed significantly higher level of class-related enjoyment in language classes. Yüksel-Şahin (2004) also found gender differences on mathematical worry levels of 237 high school Turkish students such that females were found to be more worried than male peers. The common point of those studies is that girls displayed more negative but less positive emotions while boys experienced more positive but less negative ones. Wigfield and Mecce (1988) reported that ninth grade students expressed higher mathematics worry than sixth graders. Furthermore, boredom displayed an increasing trend from fifth to eighth grades (Larson & Richard, 1991). However, hopelessness seemed to decrease as students passed from ninth to tenth grade (Yenilmez, 2010). On the other side, Frenzel, Goetz, Lüdtke, Pekrun, and Sutton’s (2009) longitudinal study yielded a decreasing pattern for math class-related enjoyment of students between seventh and eighth grades. That is, negative emotions generally tend to increase with grade level as opposed to positive emotions. Overall, the present study focused on examining mathematics achievement emotions by grade level and gender. More specifically, the research questions are: What are sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students’ achievement emotions in mathematics and how do they change by gender and grade level? Method The study utilized causal-comparative design, in which data were collected from 2,250 lower secondary school students selected from fourteen schools located in four central districts of Ankara, Turkey. Of the participants, female students (n = 1,164) constituted 51.7%, while males (n = 1,085) formed 48.2% of the sample. In addition, 690 students were from sixth grade (30.7%), 772 students were from seventh grade (34.3%), and 784 of them were from eighth grade (34.8%). Data were collected through Achievement Emotions Questionnaire-Mathematics (AEQ-M) developed by Pekrun, Goetz, Frenzel, Barchfeld, and Perry (2011). AEQ-M is a multidimensional self-report instrument involving 60 items on a five-point Likert scale, and assesses seven different emotions in mathematics: enjoyment, pride, anger, anxiety, shame, hopelessness, and boredom (Pekrun, Goetz, & Frenzel, 2005). The questionnaire includes three sections addressing emotional experiences of students while attending class, studying and doing homework, and taking tests or exams. In this study, the Turkish version of AEQ-M, with 52 items, was used to measure students’ mathematics achievement emotions. The reliability estimates of the scale for the present study were found as .92 for enjoyment, .89 for pride, .91 for anger, .89 for anxiety, .81 for shame, .89 for hopelessness, and .88 for boredom. Sample items for each emotion type might be given as the following: “The material we deal with in mathematics is so exciting that I really enjoy my class.” (enjoyment); “I am proud of my contributions to the math class.” (pride); “My mathematics homework makes me angry.” (anger); “Even before I take the math test I worry I could fail.” (anxiety); “I am embarrassed about my lack of knowledge in mathematics.”(shame); “I have no energy.” (hopelessness); “I think the mathematics class is boring.” (boredom). Expected Outcomes The 2X3 MANOVA with Pillai’s Trace approximation yielded a significant multivariate main effect for grade level and for gender but a non-significant multivariate interaction between grade level and gender. Univariate ANOVAs by gender indicated that there was no significant difference between males and females in mathematics enjoyment, pride, anger, and boredom. However, mathematics anxiety, shame, and hopelessness scores of female students were significantly higher than those of male students. Findings with respect to grade level showed that there were significant differences among grade levels for all achievement emotions except mathematics shame. While positive emotions tend to decrease by grade level, negative emotions tend to increase. More specifically, post-hoc analyses revealed that sixth grade students’ mathematics enjoyment and pride scores were significantly higher than seventh and eighth grade students’ scores. On the other side, sixth grade students’ mean scores of anger and boredom were significantly lower than those of seventh and eighth grade students. In addition, eighth grade student reported higher level of math hopelessness than sixth and seventh grade students; nevertheless, there was no significant difference between sixth and seventh grades. Finally, with respect to mathematics anxiety, there was a significant difference only between sixth and eighth grades, with sixth graders less anxious than eight graders. The current study would be promising to form a basis to examine the reasons and consequences of the discrepancy among relevant emotions and the selected variables for further studies. On the other hand, mathematics achievement emotion is a new concept in Turkish educational context. Hence, this study contributes to the literature in terms of providing an opportunity to compare the obtained results with foreign cultures.


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Citation Formats
B. Çalık and Y. Çapa Aydın, “Mathematics achievement emotions Do they differ by gender and grade level,” presented at the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) (2015), 2015, Accessed: 00, 2021. [Online]. Available: