Investigating Secondary Students Beliefs About Mathematical Problem-Solving

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Many studies over the past 30 years have highlighted the important role of students’ beliefs for successful problem-solving in mathematics. Given the recent emphasis afforded to problem-solving on the reformed Irish secondary school mathematics curriculum, the main aim of this study was to identify Irish students’ (n = 975) beliefs about the field. A quantitative measure of these beliefs was attained through the use of the Indiana Mathematical Belief Scale, an existing 30-item (five-scale) self-report questionnaire. A statistical analysis of the data revealed that students who were further through their secondary education had a stronger belief that not all problems could be solved by applying routine procedures. In contrast, the same students held less positive beliefs than their younger counterparts that they could solve time-consuming problems and that conceptual understanding was important. The analysis also indicated that gender had a significant impact on three of the five belief scales.