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Change Attitudes with Affirmations in Problem Solving

Research conducted by Brasssell, Petry, and Brooks (1980) claims that mathematical self—concept, and math anxiety appear to be important correlates of mathematics achievement. Additional studies have shown that there is a significant relationship between attitudes towards mathematics and mathematics achievement (Aiken, 1961). It goes without saying that many students could stand to undergo a change in attitude with regard to mathematics and problem solving in general.

Rokeach (1973) states that attitude change is possible. In order to produce change, a suggestion for change must be received and accepted. Acceptance is more likely to occur when the suggestion meets existing personality needs or drives. The suggestion is most likely to be accepted if: (1) it is in harmony with the valued group norms and loyalties, (2) the source of the message is perceived as trustworthy or expert, and (3) the message follows certain rules of rhetoric regarding order of presentation, organization of content, nature of appeal, etc. A suggestion carried by mass media plus face-~to—face reinforcement are more likely to be accepted than a suggestion carried by either of these alone, other things being equal. Also, a change in attitudes is more likely to occur if the suggestion is accompanied by a change in other factors underlying beliefs and attitudes.

Anderson (1980) suggests that attitudes effect problem solving achievement in general. Research indicates that good problem solvers have confidence in their abilities (MacKinnon, 1962; Janis and Mann, 1977). One can also increase his ability to solve problems merely by imagining that he is a good problem solver, thereby increasing his level of self-confidence (Stein, 1974). Hyman (1964) found that if people are encouraged to continue working beyond the point at which they feel they have done the best they can, they will often come up with better ideas.

Anderson (1980) recommends the following for altering attitudes: (1) Be more aware of your existing strengths. Perhaps you have a good memory, or a logical mind, or a prolific imagination, or great persistence. (2) Be aware of external resources (people, books, etc.) that can help you solve problems. (3) Allow yourself sufficient time for problem solving. (4) Practice problem solving. (5) Set subgoals, breaking problems down into steps and attempting to accomplish just one step at a time.

Another method of invoking attitude change is a technique called “creative visualization.” Gawain (1982), the creator of creative visualization, has defined four steps of the actual process. They are:

1. Establish your goal--decide what it is you would like to work toward, realize, or create. Begin by choosing a goal that is easy for you to believe, and one that can be easily realized. Then, with
maturation, choose more challenging goals.

2. Create an idea or picture—create an exact mental image of the object or situation that you desire. Always think of it as existing in the present sense. The overly ambitious you may want to draw or paint an actual physical picture of what it is you want.

3. Concentrate on your goal often—bring your mental image to conscious awareness whenever the situation presents itself. It is preferred that you be in a relaxed setting, but it can often be done whenever you think of it, i.e., riding the bus, walking to the mail box, etc.

4. Affirm your goal--in other words, think of your goal in a positive, encouraging fashion.

Gawain also gives several guidelines in establishing affirmations. They are:

1. Always refer to your affirmations in the present sense, not the past or future. For example, “I am an effective problem solver,” not “I will be an effective problem solver.”

2. Always state your affirmations in the most positive way that you can. State what it is that you do want, not what you don’t want.

3. Keep it simple. The shorter and simpler the affirmation, the better.

4. Choose affirmations that feel right to you.

Affirmations should feel positive and/or supportive, so choose words that you feel comfortable with.

5. Always remember that you are creating something new and fresh and not trying to alter what already exists.

6. Affirmations are not to change or contradict your feelings and emotions. Neither should you try to suppress any feelings that may arise.

7. Believe in what you are affirming, and that it can become a reality.



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