This study examined the influence of a set of relevant independent variables on students' decision to major in math or science disciplines, on the one hand, or arts or humanities disciplines, on the other. The independent variables of interest in the study were students' attitudes toward science, their gender, their socioeconomic status, their age, and the strength and direction of parents' and peers' influences on their academic decisions.
The study answered five research questions that concerned students' intention in math or science, the association between students' attitudes and their choice to major in math or science, the extent to which parents' and peers' perspectives influence students' choice of major, and the influence of a combination of relevant variables on students' choice of major.
The scholarly context for the study was literature relating to students' attitudes toward science and math, their likelihood of taking courses or majoring in science or math and various conditions influencing their attitudes and actions with respect to enrollment in science or math disciplines. This literature suggested that students' experiences, their gender, parents' and peers' influence, their socio-economic status, teachers' treatment of them, school curricula, school culture, and other variables may influence students' attitudes toward science and math and their decision regarding the study of these subjects.
The study used a questionnaire comprised of 28 items to elicit information from students. Based upon cluster sampling of secondary schools, the researcher surveyed 1000 students from 10 secondary schools and received 987 responses.
The researcher used SPSS to analyze students' responses. Descriptive statistics, logistic regression, and multiple regression analyses to provide findings that address the study's research questions.
The following are the major findings from the study:
The instrument used to measure students' attitudes toward science and mathematics was not highly reliable, perhaps contributing to an attenuation of the relationship between attitude toward science and mathematics and choice of a science or mathematics major (rather than an arts or humanities major).
Far more students than the researcher had anticipated provided responses indicating that they planned to major in a science or mathematics discipline rather than an arts or humanities discipline.
Students' attitudes towards math and science were more favorable than the researcher anticipated based on findings from previous related studies. This result suggests the possibility of social desirability bias in students' responses.
Three significant predicator variables contributed to a significant logistic regression equation in which choice of science or mathematics major was the dependent variable: gender (negative association), attitude toward science and math (positive association), and peer influence 1 (positive association). Gender was the strongest predictor.
Five significant predictor variables contributed to a significant multiple linear regression equation in which attitude toward science and mathematics was the dependent variable: peer influence 1 (positive association), parent influence 1 (positive association), parent influence 2 (positive association), books in home (positive association), and peer influence 2 (positive association).
The results reveal that among the targeted variables (gender, attitude, peer influence 1, peer influence 2, parent influence 1, parent influence 2, books in home, and age) only gender, peer influence 1, and attitude were significant predictors of students' major in math or science.