Sex differences related to achievement in mathematics.
thesisposted on 10.02.2009, 16:34 by Susan J. Cavendish
The study investigated biological, cognitive, and social factors relating to the under-achievement of girls compared to boys in mathematics. The phenomenon was investigated of girls being superior to boys in mathematics tests at the primary age but boys being superior to girls from adolescence. Historical considerations appear to have contributed to the delayed provision of mathematics education for girls. Gender differences in tests were found in a few specific classes only and were not the general case. The analysis of errors found that language determines the level of success in mathematics during the early years. Other social factors such as parent attitudes and teacher confidence build up during the primary years to manifest from about the age of eleven and work to the detriment of girls. Secondary age boys demonstrated more positive attitudes than girls, but girls did not demonstrate negative attitudes. The period between the second and fourth year juniors proved to be of significant importance In the development of mathematical achievement. During this period a change occurred in the types of test errors and omissions, the level of career aspirations, the number of male teachers experienced, the extent of whole class teaching, and pupil attitude scores. Teachers did not give more attention to boys compared to girls. A method of attitude assessment was trialled. Results suggested that most pupils viewed the teacher as a disciplinarian even though few discipline related interactions were observed in the classroom study. Male teachers appeared confident in mathematics, whereas females had less positive attitudes. Study of the classroom suggested that the curriculum area being taught influenced the teaching style employed which in turn influenced pupil behaviour. Differences within each curriculum area would allow for classroom factors to have a differential effect on girls and boys in mathematics and not other curriculum areas.