Volume 11, Issue 2     Editorial
A broad understanding of mathematics—questions, applications, issues and operations is an indispensable foundation for valid and effective participation in modern science, technology, and many other professions. This broad understanding, therefore, is an unquestionable objective in the preparation of students in K-12 and higher education. Results from the Third International Mathematics and Science Study found that the United States was the only nation that went from above average in fourth grade to below average in eighth grade. U.S. students do not start behind; they fall behind. While there is a widespread concern about the performance of students in mathematics, most attention to the subject has been in the form of higher expectations, testing programs and revised methodologies. Some of them, such as the NCTM standards, have provoked considerable controversy. Clearly, there has been insufficient attention to the attitudes of students about mathematics, although there has been much attention to their performance, errors and test scores. As a political or pedagogical issue, improvement is often debated as simply matter of methodology. Rather than merely concentrating on changing the textbook or the approach, perhaps there are more significant and subtle factors inherent in the attitudes of students themselves that must be more seriously investigated and taken into account. If a student's self-perceived ability is critical to success and a predictor of failure or achievement, then concern about students' attitudes must be elevated. Much more needs to be learned about how attitudes are formed and altered, and the best techniques for intervention and the stimulation of a sense of positive self-efficacy. Bandura (1981) argued that judgments of self-efficacy are task specific, making them better predictors of success in a particular domain. What a person believes shapes behavior. Attitudes are prerequisite to knowledge and skill acquisition in a domain, because they affect what a person does and how he or she perceives related issues. Attitudes emerge out of a complex of experiences, but this is rarely considered in the selection or preparation of teachers of mathematics. While it may be expected that people who major in mathematics may have favorable attitudes about the subject, the attitudes of K-12 teachers who must teach mathematics are disregarded, especially at the elementary level. The curriculum is in the hands of the teachers who must implement instruction. Research about mathematics and the investigation of attitudes toward mathematics must continue in order to determine the effectiveness of current and proposed reforms and to evaluate the success of programs that are implemented in the K-12 and higher education curricula. This special edition of research about mathematics education presents research articles across a broad range of elementary and postsecondary education topics, including current interest in math anxiety, mathematical thinking, contextual learning, parental influence, computer-assisted instruction, curriculum, attitudes, problem-solving, and statistics. It is hoped that these articles will spark a continued, much-needed interest in this important field and highlight the efforts of researchers who are engaged in important endeavors that may otherwise go unnoticed.Martha Tapia
Anna C. McFadden
The University of Alabama
John J. Ketterer
Jacksonville State University
CFP for the next issue Mathematics Summer 2008.