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Archive for **September 2011**

Statistics have always had a strong correlation to mathematics and/or its algebra summations (Zeidner, 1991). As such, studies have been carried out in which mathematics within primary and secondary school have demonstated the outcome of views of statistics and mathematics in older generations (such as social science students at university!) (Carmona, 2002).

Results from many of these studies indicate that a poorer mathematical and statistical background (such as bad grades in secondary school, low self-esteem about numbers; (“I cant do maths!”) and a general “who needs maths when there’s a calculator?!” outlook) determine the future prospects of students attitudes towards statistics (Osipow, 1973).

Having a strong statistical and mathematical background (Gal & Garfield, 1997) has been proven to relieve symptoms of anxiety, depression and improves self-esteem towards statistics, helping the future student to react postively and generate more enthusiasm for learning when involved with mathematics and statistical work. However, Carmona (2002) believes that our overall number “attitude” is more responsible for students “unenthusiasm” than poor results in secondary and primary school.

Some students may not be very gifted at maths, but still have the drive to learn its logic, so when faced with statistics, these students may indeed improve and therefore carry less stress and harbour a positive attitude when learning statistics. Those students who may be “above intelligent” with mathematics may lack this enthusiasm and carry a negative belief if they believe that statistics and maths are “not worth it” (Shutz et al. 1988). If however, a statistics student is generally unfazed and calm about a statistical problem, it can be assumed that their statistical and mathematical background has been strongly positive and rewarding, and their comprehension of the importance of statistics and mathematics throughout their education has little changed.

Essentially therefore, it seems that general “negativity” and/or “laziness” can be attributed to lack of enthusiasm towards statistics, and if positive reinforcements are not provided at a schooling age, then the laziness can progress and manifest into other inhibiting factors (stress, anxiety, etc.) when faced with statistical measures and work in the future. This may indeed have harmful effects upon higher/further education students when involving statistics (amongst those with a negatie attitude) if indeed statistics negatively affects their enthusiasm and generates laziness and distress.

It could be said however, that students cannot simply be blamed for their laziness and negative attitudes towards statistics, whether it be from previous poor grades in mathematics or anything else. Wang Man & Wi Yu-Lu, (2010) believe that the main problem for negative numerical and statistical attitues is overpressure from teachers, lecturers and even parents, and as such, this can have a much more harmful effect on students than any prior bad grades or self-esteem during primary and secondary school. Therefore, a “strong” statistical background, doesnt necessarily provoke positivity, instead, it can generate stress and negativity.

In conclusion, if there has been a positive background of statistics, free of stress, pressure etc. there is a much greater liklihood of positivity involving situations of statistics in the future. The stress-free environment can make a generally positive impact of a person coming into contact with statistics, and those of a negative background, may find statistical work full of negative emotions, provoking a negative attitude and response. It can most certainly be said that a more “positive” rather than “strong” statistical background, are more beneficial to anyone when coming into contact with statistics.