Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Elizabeth Senger


This study examined some of the factors that influence African-American and Caucasian eighth graders' performance on standardized mathematics tests. Specifically, I examined the effects of high and low achievers' beliefs and attitudes toward mathematics and perceptions of self, mathematics, teacher, school, and parents on their performance levels. I employed a two-phase design with qualitative and quantitative approaches. The qualitative phase focused on one grand-tour question: Considering the times you took standardized mathematics tests, would you please describe some of the things that affected your performance on those tests? Individual students and focus groups were the units of analysis. I interviewed four focus groups from a cross-section of three Southeastern U.S. public schools to determine their views on factors that affected their performance on standardized mathematics tests. The data were analyzed and coded using QUALPRO. The objective of the quantitative portion was to test whether students' scores on standardized mathematics tests were influenced by the self-reported factors generated from the qualitative phase as follows: (1) students' beliefs, attitudes, perceptions, and time invested in mathematics homework; (2) students' perceptions of selected characteristics of schools; (3) students' perceptions of teachers' attitudes, relationships with them, and teaching practices; and (4) students' perceptions of parents' involvement. Data for the quantitative analysis were from eighth graders' responses to questionnaires and cognitive tests of the 1988 National Education Longitudinal Study (NELS:88). Factor analysis, Pearson correlation, and multiple regression analyses were performed on this data. There was no dominant factor explaining effects on performance, but a combination of factors was found. High achievers indicated mathematics was important to their future, getting good grades was important, they had self-confidence in their ability to do mathematics, and they enjoyed doing mathematics. Low achievers felt that lack of concern and failure to work harder or to ask for help were the major factors that affected their performance. Both groups agreed that they had little to no help from their parents but their teachers were helpful. The results also implied that different factors affected the performance of high and low achievers for African-American and Caucasian students.