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Do Biology Students Really Hate Math? Empirical Insights into Undergraduate Life Science Majors' Emotions about Mathematics.

Abstract

Undergraduate life science majors are reputed to have negative emotions toward mathematics, yet little empirical evidence supports this. We sought to compare emotions of majors in the life sciences versus other natural sciences and math. We adapted the Attitudes toward the Subject of Chemistry Inventory to create an Attitudes toward the Subject of Mathematics Inventory (ASMI). We collected data from 359 science and math majors at two research universities and conducted a series of statistical tests that indicated that four AMSI items comprised a reasonable measure of students' emotional satisfaction with math. We then compared life science and non-life science majors and found that major had a small to moderate relationship with students' responses. Gender also had a small relationship with students' responses, while students' race, ethnicity, and year in school had no observable relationship. Using latent profile analysis, we identified three groups-students who were emotionally satisfied with math, emotionally dissatisfied with math, and neutral. These results and the emotional satisfaction with math scale should be useful for identifying differences in other undergraduate populations, determining the malleability of undergraduates' emotional satisfaction with math, and testing effects of interventions aimed at improving life science majors' attitudes toward math.

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