Friday, 7 February 2020

Start the Year with an Attitude Survey

Here in my part of Australia it is the end of Week 1, Term 1. Being a good teacher, I am always keen to get to know my new class quickly and to find out all about them.

And this often involves assessment.

Kind of sad if the first words of greeting are, "Hi kids! Did you have a great holiday? Sit down and do this test."

Really, doing tests in Week 1 is harsh. But I still want to know about my kids. 

So instead, I give my students an attitudinal survey so they can tell me how they "feel" about maths.

I am teaching Year 4 this year. They are some of the kids I taught in Year 2 back in 2018 who did the awesome patterns you may have seen on my blog from back then. So I was hopeful that there would be some pretty strong connection happening with maths. 

I don't have room to go through the whole 2 pages of the survey (if you want a copy I can email you one) but I want to highlight a few interesting questions and the results from my class.

Question 1

Put a circle around the words you would use to describe

boring     cool     exciting     fun     difficult         

hard        confusing     challenging     scary    easy

No - this is not a test to see who knows what a circle is and who can draw one. It is about tuning in to the language that the students use when talking about maths - whether talking out loud or just talking in their heads.

Results for Question 1

Students could circle as many words as they wanted to. This is how the students in 4BF responded:


No-one in my class finds maths scary - or maybe they're too scared to admit it.

The most frequently recorded words were "cool", "fun" and "challenging". This is very positive language. Even "challenging" acknowledges that maths can require effort but that this is seen as a challenge rather than as being simply "difficult".

The one boy who circled "boring" also circled "hard", "difficult", "challenging" and "confusing". He is not a student that I have taught before. He will be at the top of my list to learn more about and to see where we can make some positive gains.

I wonder if the students will still be using the same language at the end of the year?

Another question that I use asks the students to rate their own ability at maths by putting a cross on a line. It looks like this:

Question 4

This example is my "boring" boy from the question above. Definitely need to get involved here.

The length of the line is 15cm (or 150mm). With this question, I measure the position of the cross in relation to the left hand end of the line and give a score our of 150 (because the line is 150mm long, so 1 point equals 1mm). 

Results were:

So the boys rate themselves pretty highly at maths, even given the "outlier" (above) who scored himself at about 25 out of 150. And the girls have a (significantly) lower opinion of their abilities. Do the boys have an inflated sense of how "good" they are? Are they being realistic? Are the girls too modest? Are they being realistic? Do they doubt themselves?

One thing that does stand out - I need to work on attitude. 

This quick survey gave me a lot of information to think about - probably more than a skills-based number test would have. There were 10 questions in all. Some questions were similar in format to the above, others were short answer and required sentence responses. I can highly recommend that you have a go at doing something similar to start your year. It will tell you a great deal about the students in your care.

All 5 of our Year 4 classes did this survey. Hopefully in the next few days I will have data from all the classes that I can share.

Have fun!


  1. Hi Bruce
    Any chance that you could please send me your survey?
    Many thanks

  2. I know it was an older post, but I really like the idea of starting a new year with a Math Attitude Survey. I agree that giving a "test" the first few days is harsh, but as educators, we do need to know where students are in their ability. The survey is a much better idea. You can still get an idea of who you have in the class and in a way, knowing their attitude of math might be more important in the long and short run, than what they actually know. As a girl who loves math, it makes me sad to see that the girls don't rate their interest or ability as high as the boys. Something we all can work on.

  3. I'd love to find out about my 5/6 students using this form. Could I use it?


Any comments you would like to make?