For many university students, the last formal experience in a mathematics classroom is a single semester “general education” mathematics class. Traditionally, students in this type of class often hold negative attitudes towards mathematics. Here I study a sample of students from this population (49 students at a large, urban, comprehensive public university enrolled in a “math for liberal arts majors” course) to research whether a positive experience in a freshman-level general education mathematics course correlates with a positive change in the students’ attitude towards mathematics in general. I also explore which specific aspects of such a course contribute most to a positive student experience.
The survey results show that while a positive experience in a freshman-level general education mathematics course correlates with positive responses in a student’s attitude about several key variable components of attitude (including motivation to do mathematics, perceived usefulness of mathematics, and confidence while doing mathematics), it does not correlate with positive change. The course aspects that most correlate with a positive experience include the teacher/professor, difficulty level of the course, and workload.

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