Math Achievement Essay

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This paper outlines the author’s intent for reexamining literature on gender differences in mathematics instruction. An overview of research findings on gender and mathematics from industrial societies ( USA. Australia. and UK ) and from some developing states in Southern Africa ( South Africa. Mozambique. and Botswana ) is so presented. Some causal factors for the being of gender differences in mathematics accomplishment are critiqued and the nexus between mathematics and societal entities ( democracy and power ) are challenged. The deductions of the above for research on misss larning mathematics in Botswana ( and Africa ) are eventually suggested.


Literature reappraisal should non be considered as merely portion of the demands in scholarly endeavors. but as a critical project in which the research worker exercises a changeless agnosticism on an issue of involvement. In this paper. literature reappraisal is used as a procedure to review the witting and unconscious premises of scholarly research on gender derived functions in mathematics instruction. It serves as a qualitative analysis to find how these premises force the definition of jobs and findings of such scholarly research attempts.

The paper examines literature on research surveies which have dealt with gender derived functions in mathematics schoolroom kineticss. The disenfranchisement of misss in mathematics larning discourses and girls’ motivational orientations in mathematics are of import issues for the human development attempts in Botswana. The paper draws upon literature from Western states. specifically the USA. the UK and Australia where research on gender differences in mathematics has been considerable and influential.

The socio-political. cultural and socioeconomic contexts in these states. nevertheless. differ from those of Southern Africa in many facets of development ( instruction. engineering. economic. etc. ) . but there are possibilities to pull analogues. albeit in a limited manner. Through sing analogues and differences between Western industrial civilizations and Africa. the paper examines issues pertinent to African misss impacting their instruction.

The literature analysis is against the background of jobs such as HIV/AIDS and unplanned gestations faced by misss within African communities. Botswana ( like most of Africa ) is coping with the HIV/AIDS pandemic ; high degrees of unemployment and poorness ( BIDPA. 2000 ) . The African Economic Commission ( 1999:5 ) provinces that:

Datas from Botswana. Burundi. Cardinal African Republic. Uganda. Zambia and Zimbabwe indicate that misss 15 to 19 old ages old have an ( HIV/AIDS ) infection rate four to ten times that of male childs in the same group.

This is the age group within which research on gender and mathematics has tended to concentrate. Harmonizing to Okojie ( 2001 ) . the Botswana survey. commissioned by the African Academy of Sciences Research Programme. indicated the rate of teenage gestation being higher than that of most other African states. HIV/AIDS. unplanned gestations and deficiency of involvement in mathematics are amongst existent jobs that misss in the underdeveloped universe face which must be taken on board when shiping on a sociological research analysis affecting gender differences.

Notwithstanding these developments. the inquiry of how to actuate pupils in the schoolroom is a taking concern for instructors of all subjects. Student motive becomes particularly relevant to mathematics instruction in the visible radiation of repeating inquiries about how to acquire more pupils interested and involved in the topic. As we proceed in the new millenary. Botswana is plagued with important high-school dropout rates and worsening involvement in mathematics among secondary school pupils. Educators and policy shapers need to understand the educational techniques that may ‘suffocate students’ involvement in learning’ ( Boggiano and Pittman. 1992 ) . so work to rekindle that involvement.

This paper is concerned with the usage of mathematics as a ‘filter’ for farther instruction and calling picks. This affects girls more as they tend to shy away from the survey of higher degree mathematics. scientific discipline and technology every bit reflected in the University of Botswana annually intake ( Fact Books 2002 ; 2003 ; 2004/5 ; 2005/6 ) . The literature analysis returns from an articulation of girls’ reported achievement inclinations within mathematics larning discourses in the developed universe and explores the state of affairs in Africa. peculiarly Southern Africa. with a particular focal point on Botswana.

Gender differences in mathematics instruction

The developed world’s position on gender and mathematics Contemporary research surveies reflect scholars’ maturating position of the complexness of causing of differences between males and females in mathematics instruction. As Fennema ( 2000 ) justly points out. from around 1970. ‘sex differences’ index was used to connote that any differences found were biologically. and therefore. genetically determined. changeless and non mutable. During the 70’s and 80’s ‘sex-related differences’ standard was frequently used to bespeak that while the behavior of concern was clearly related to the sex of the topics. it was non needfully genetically determined. Latey. ‘gender differences’ refers to societal or environmental causing of differences that are observed between the sexes.

This paper critically reviews work by taking research workers in the epoch of this new apprehension of gender differences. Harmonizing to Leder ( 1996 ) there were likely more research surveies published on gender and mathematics than any other country between 1970 and 1990. Fennema ( 1993. 2000 ) concluded that while many surveies had been ill analysed and/or included sexist readings. there was grounds to back up the being of differences between girls’ and boys’ acquisition of mathematics. peculiarly in activities that required complex logical thinking ; that the differences increased at about the oncoming of adolescence and were recognised by many taking mathematics pedagogues. Salmon ( 1998 ) concurred with the impression that gender differences addition at secondary school degree. peculiarly in state of affairss that require complex logical thinking. In the absence of an African place challenging such positions. it suffices to presume that similar differences might happen in the Southern African contexts.

Surveies by Fennema and Sherman ( 1977. 1978 ) documented sex-related differences in accomplishment and engagement. and found gender differences in the election of advanced degree mathematics classs. They hypothesised that if females participated in advanced mathematics categories at the same rate that males did. gender differences would vanish. Stanley and Benbow ( 1980 ) used readings of some of their surveies as a defense of this ‘differential course-taking hypothesis’ . They argued that gender differences in mathematics were familial. a claim which was widely attacked and disproved. but whose publication had unfortunate reverberations ( Jacobs and Eccles. 1985 ) .

Fennema and Sherman ( 1977. 1978 ) identified as critical. beliefs about the utility of. and assurance in larning mathematics. with males supplying grounds that they were more confident about larning mathematics and believed that mathematics was. and would be. more utile to them than did females. There was grounds that while immature work forces did non strongly stereotype mathematics as a male sphere. they did believe much more strongly than did immature adult females that mathematics was more appropriate for males than for females. The importance of these variables ( assurance. usefulness and male stereotyping ) . their long-run influence. and their differential impact on females and males was re-confirmed by many other surveies ( Hyde et al. . 1990 ; Tartre and Fennema. 1991 ; Leder. 1992 ) .

Earlier. Maccoby and Jacklin ( 1974 ) had reported differences between females and males in spacial accomplishments. peculiarly spacial visual image or the ability to visualise motions of geometric figures in one’s head. The Fennema-Sherman surveies and the Fennema and Tartre ( 1985 ) longitudinal survey investigated spacial accomplishments or spacial visual image. They found that while spacial visual image was positively correlated with mathematics accomplishment ( that does non bespeak causing ) . non all misss were handicapped by unequal spacial accomplishments. except those who scored really low on spacial undertakings.

Fennema ( 1993 ) suggested that an appropriate course of study redesign could counterbalance for these weak accomplishments. Other surveies ( Kerns and Berenbaum. 1991 ; Voyer. Voyer and Bryden. 1995 ) reported boys surpassing misss on trials of visual/spatial abilities: the ability. that is. to pull illations about or to otherwise mentally manipulate pictural information. The male advantage in spacial abilities was reportedly non big. but noticeable by in-between childhood and persisted across the life span. Casey. Nuttall and Pezaris ( 1997 ) concluded that sex differences in visual/spatial abilities and the problem-solving schemes they support contribute to sex differences in arithmetic logical thinking.

Although they were non peculiarly advanced nor offered penetrations that others were non proposing. the Fennema-Sherman surveies had a major impact since they were published when the concern with gender and mathematics was turning internationally. They were identified by Walberg & A ; Haertel ( 1992 ) and others as among the most frequently quoted societal scientific discipline and educational research surveies during the 80’s and 90’s. The jobs of gender and mathematics were defined and documented in footings of the survey of advanced mathematics classs. the acquisition of mathematics. and selected related variables that appeared relevant both to students’ choice of classs and acquisition of mathematics. The Fennema-Sherman Mathematics Attitude Scales have been widely used as guidelines for be aftering intercessions and research surveies.

Campbell ( 1986 ) found that girls’ deficiency of assurance in themselves as mathematics scholars. their perceptual experience of mathematics as hard. and their position that mathematics is a male activity. all had impact on girls’ attitudes. accomplishment. and engagement in advanced classs. In a longitudinal survey of 6th. 8th. ten percent. and 12th classs. Tartre and Fennema ( 1991 ) found that. for misss. sing mathematics as a male sphere was correlated to mathematics accomplishment. Girls in single-sex schools or in out-of-school mathematics undertakings – who did non see mathematics as an entirely male sphere tended to hold higher mathematics success. When this moral force was changed to do mathematics accessible to both misss and male childs. girls’ involvement and engagement were found to lift.

Reyes and Stanic ( 1988 ) and Secada ( 1992 ) have argued that socioeconomic position and ethnicity interact with gender to act upon mathematics larning. Forgasz and Leder ( 1998 ) portion the position that gender derived functions in engagement rates are associated with the interaction of positive attitudes and beliefs about mathematics and socioeconomic position. The transferability of these findings. based on Western cultural constructs. poses a job for African contexts. Socioeconomic position indexs in Botswana for case. slightly differ from the UK theoretical account and demand be suitably contextualised. The inquiry of ethnicity besides becomes debatable in the Botswana context since approximately 85 % of the population is of Tswana cultural beginning. Furthermore. cultural differences have ne’er been of significance and might non needfully impact gender differences in mathematics in the same manner as in Western contexts.

Tendencies of gender differences in mathematics from the United Kingdom The gender spread in public presentation throughout the topics in the United Kingdom has been switching in favor of misss since the early 1990s. In national course of study trials and at higher degree GCSE classs. misss outperform male childs. For illustration. in 1997. 49 % of misss achieved five or more higher class GCSEs compared with 40 % male childs ( DfEE. 1997 ) . However. at the lower degrees of GCSE attainment. the gender spread is smaller in per centum point footings. In 1997. 8. 8 % of male childs and 6. 5 % of misss failed to derive GCSE makings ( DfEE. 1997 ) .

These figures show some of the paradoxes in gender and attainment. Males gain most of the higher instruction top awards but the tendency is for misss in general to make better in public scrutinies than male childs – differences which are evident in the earlier old ages of schooling. Consequently. current concerns about schooling are now more related to boys’ underachievement ( as demonstrated in public scrutinies ) than to that of misss. The inquiry is whether such results at school and higher instruction reflect attacks to assessment. methods of learning. and/or outlooks of society.

The OfSTED ( 2003 ) study found that boys progress more than misss in mathematics throughout schools. Research indicated that in mathematics the spread between male childs and misss achieving degree 4 and supra at the terminal of Key Stage 2 was merely one per centum point. with male childs at 73 % and misss at 72 % ; nevertheless. 32 % of male childs achieved flat 5 and above whilst merely 26 % misss did ( OfSTED. 2003:13 ) . Harmonizing to OfSTED ( 2003:14 ) although the differences are smaller than those in English. it is a uninterrupted tendency and it is hence still critical to understand why misss perform better in certain topics such as literacy and underachieve in comparing to boys in mathematics.

One cardinal ground may be the perceptual experience misss have of this capable country. The 1998 OfSTED Report on ‘Recent Research on Gender and Education Performance’ stated that “science. mathematics. engineering. ICT and PE are rated as ‘masculine’ by students and preferred by boys” ( Arnot et al. . 1998:31 ) . Girls rated English. humanistic disciplines. music. PSE and RE as feminine and preferred by misss. However. Archer and Macrae ( 1991 ) are cited in the same OfSTED study proposing that mathematics has become more gender impersonal possibly reflected in the smaller spread between genders than that of literacy. The ground the spread has become smaller may be because misss are more prepared to undertake ‘masculine’ topics.

Public concern about the underperformance of male child has risen since the early 1990s as misss outstripped their male schoolmates academically. Although the proportion acquiring five C’s or better increased from 38 % in 1996 to 46 % in 2003. the gender spread remained steady at 10 per centum points in favor of misss. Both male childs and misss in disadvantaged countries got much lower classs than their more advantaged equals. But while misss in hapless countries were bettering faster than those in flush countries. the spread between rich and hapless male childs remained changeless. Dr. Deborah Wilson. Bristol University expert on the gender spread in schools. argued that the differences are likely to be a consequence of factors outside school: “The consequence of poorness on exam consequences is greater than the consequence of gender. If we focus more on the grounds for poorness impacting public presentation we might acquire better consequences for both male childs and girls” ( TES. 13 August 2004 ) .

Harmonizing to Mendick ( 2002 ) . in England. the evolving gendered forms of attainment in mathematics need to be juxtaposed with the unchanging gendered forms of engagement in the topic. There are really few staying differences between the attainment of male and female pupils in either GCSE. AS. or A-level mathematics scrutinies ( taken at ages 16+ . 17+ and 18 severally ) ( Gorard et Al. . 2001 ; Guardian. 2002a. 2002b ) . Although male childs are still more likely to procure the top A* and A classs at GCSE and A-level severally. the differences are little and acquiring smaller. In contrast to these switching forms of attainment. the determination to go on with advanced mathematics remains extremely gendered in favor of male childs.

This polarisation persists despite decennaries of feminist intercession ; as Shaw ( 1995:107 ) argues: “the most dramatic characteristic of capable pick is that the freer it is. the more gendered it is. ” In fact. from 1994 to 2002. the proportion of the entire figure of 17 and 18 year-olds entered for A-level mathematics in England who are male showed small alteration. dropping merely somewhat from 65 % to 63 % ( Government Statistical Service. 1995 to 2002 ; Guardian. 2002b ) . This greater engagement of males in mathematics classs becomes more marked as you go up the degrees from A-level. to undergraduate. and so to postgraduate. and is reflected in the larger figure of work forces than adult females working in mathematically-oriented Fieldss.

Mendick ( 2002:1 ) argued:

The gender spread in maths public presentation in this state. while still marginally in favor of male childs. is go oning to contract ( Smithers. 2000 ; Gorard et Al. . 2001 ) . However. the gender spread in engagement in maths remains in malice of more than two decennaries of feminist enterprises for alteration. Furthermore. maths becomes progressively male dominated as we progress from sixth-form ( ages 16 to 19 ) to undergraduate degrees. and from undergraduate to postgraduate degrees ( Boaler. 2000 ) 
 misss continue to disproportionately choose out of maths. a powerful country of the course of study that provides a ‘critical filter’ ( Sells. 1980 ) to high position countries of academe and employment.

The above suggests that although misss are making better than male childs overall across the topic countries in the UK. they still fall behind when taking mathematics at higher degrees of the instruction system. Mendick besides portrays mathematics as a powerful topic. a form of intelligence that acts as a ‘critical filter’ commanding entry to higher position countries of academe and employment. Thus. for those concerned with societal justness. it is pertinent to inquire how it is that people come to take mathematics and in what ways this procedure is gendered. which is the point of concern for this paper.

Harmonizing to Bevan ( 2005 ) . the findings from the reappraisal of bing research included grounds that misss outperform male childs in mathematics up to the beginning of A-level. but that the differences are little. and are non consistent across all constituents of the topic ; attitudes to mathematics vary harmonizing to gender ; there are important differences in the outlooks of male childs and misss sing their ain public presentation in mathematics ; male childs and misss differ in their typical acquisition manners ; and that ability grouping impacts otherwise on male childs and misss.

Bevan’s ( 2005 ) interviews revealed that instructors with really limited exposure to formal research were able to joint judgements about gender differences in larning mathematics based entirely on schoolroom experience ; and that their intuitive judgements were frequently loosely right. but tended to overstate the extent of any existent differences. Soon there is no comparative research refering Botswana teachers’ judgements on gender differences in the acquisition of mathematics.

Sparkes ( 1999 ) pointed out that the gender spread in the UK was related to a assortment of societal issues including: parents’ educational attainment. turning up dependant on an income support recipient/eligible for free school repasts. lodging term of office and conditions. household construction ( such as solitary parent household ) . parental involvement. engagement. pattern. etc. These tendencies are different from the state of affairs in Botswana and any comparings need a contextual analysis of the state of affairs.

Positions from Africa with specific mention to Southern Africa

Gender differences in mathematics instruction in developing states are one critical country of research that needs farther geographic expedition. There is limited information about the position of contextual research on adult females and misss in those scenes in relationship to their mathematical instruction. As Kitetu ( 2004:6-7 ) acknowledges from an African position:

Unfortunately. while a batch of gender programmes have been carried out. non much research has been done within the schoolroom in the continent. Our apprehension of gender in schoolroom patterns is most frequently based on what has been studied in Western Europe and North America. I would wish to reason that there is ever a cultural angle in surveies of societal patterns.

Fortunately. there are emerging research attempts in the country of mathematics as the African continent begins to confront up to the worlds of gender differences in schoolroom patterns. The relentless patriarchal attitudes in Africa tended to forestall research workers from problematising the gender issue.

Investigating gender differences and Black South African learners’ attitudes towards mathematics. Mahlomaholo and Sematle ( 2004:4-5 ) reported that:

The differences between male childs and misss were really clear at all degrees of analysis
 For illustration they ( misss ) said it was because of parental pressure/choice or because their friends were analyzing the subject. or because their instructors instructed them to analyze mathematics. Others even went to the extent of mentioning opportunity or destiny as responsible for them taking mathematics as an country of study
 They were excusatory and non taking duty on themselves
 They even expressed their embarrassment at non being good at mathematics. they besides expressed the fright for their instructors whom they compared to lions
 they tended to hold that mathematics is for all and non for a peculiar gender.

For the misss in Mahlomaholo and Sematle ( 2004:6-7 ) . mathematics was “too difficult” and 
they were fed up with the capable and
 can non be expected to go on with a topic that they were neglecting so dismally
 did non even have an involvement in the topic as it demanded excessively much work and clip to analyze while the male childs saw much value in the discipline
There is no ground at all why some human existences do non hold appropriate positions sing the survey of mathematics. it is merely because the positions of a civilization and a surroundings that undermines adult females speak through them and hold manifested themselves steadfastly in their heads.

In their survey of three successful adult females in mathematics related callings. Mahlomaholo and Mathamela ( 2004:3 ) reported the prevalence of a conventional patriarchal attack in the South African society. They argued that:

It tends to favor male involvements and their privileged places at the disbursal of adult females through the belief that the position quo where male dominate is natural and given
 Schools tend to run in line with this attack.

To underline how the three adult females persevered in mathematics within the hostile cultural attitudes. Mahlomaholo and Mathamela ( 2004:7 ) argued that:

socialisation and upbringing. including place and household background. every bit good as parental support. were identified as factors that enabled the three adult females to travel beyond the restrictions of their state of affairss.

Mahlomaholo and Mathamela were convinced that beyond contextual and societal factors the adult females had strong constructs of themselves. They had self-belief in their abilities and a love for mathematics. which could non be dampened either by teachers’ negative comments or the societal structure’s negative stereotypes. The survey identified societal contextual factors and intra-psychic motivational factors as responsible for enabling female scholars of mathematics to either excel or fail at the topic.

Cassy ( 2004:5-6 ) reported from Mozambique that: “Although the chief purpose of the instruction policy of the state is to advance. among others. gender equity in entree to all instruction degrees. there are more females than males. who do non profit from this. This gender disagreement increases over the instruction degrees. being more at the third degree and peculiarly in mathematics and its related Fieldss. ” Cassy found important differences between the forms of attitudes towards mathematics expressed by male childs and misss in which boys rated their attitudes more positively than misss did. Boys were more confident in working in mathematics than misss. and misss were more positive that mathematics was a male sphere than male childs.

Furthermore. misss were reported to believe much more than male childs that mathematics is more appropriate for males than for females. Both misss and male childs were found to hold that mathematics was utile. These findings are non different from what has been reported in Western research surveies. Possibly this was to be expected since the survey used the Fennema-Sherman Mathematics Attitude Scale with its robust Western cultural oppugning manner. Cassy ( 2004:6 ) acknowledges that: “the bulk of misss did non like the intension of the points. ” This calls for a more contextualised listing of the graduated tables adopted from Western research contexts.

Chacko ( 2004 ) presented another survey from a Southern African position on the jobs of pupils in larning mathematics and the attacks used in learning mathematics in South Africa. Chacko reported no differences between misss and male childs in footings of wishing the topic. Chacko ( 2004:4 ) wrote:

 they do like mathematics and would wish to make good in it but for them it is a really hard topic. This involvement in making mathematics came out more conspicuously in township schools where they considered it of import for future occupations. The South African students’ belief that mathematics is hard was found among secondary school pupils in Zimbabwe ( Chacko. 2000 ) .

Chacko ( 2004:4-5 ) further argues that pupils were encouraged to make good in mathematics because “their ends in life are something that is pressing them to wish mathematics which harmonizing to Hannula ( 2002 ) is ‘the value of mathematics – related ends in the student’s planetary end construction. ’” It seems. from Chacko’s statements that the liking of mathematics was non intrinsic to the pupils. but driven by the impulse to make good in the topic because of the demand and importance it presented for their hereafter flights.

Harmonizing to Chacko ( 2004:8 ) . misss in township schools seemed to pass more of out of school clip on family jobs. which could impact their surveies. The same could be said about Botswana misss as Chacko ( 2004:5-6 ) further argued:

 jobs took most of their clip while school work was at the terminal when they were already tired to concentrate. This is more a underdeveloped state job where jobs in the house are kept for misss. which could impact the clip they spent on larning and their vision for the hereafter. 
 Some of the misss in the township schools said that when they do non happen clip to finish prep. due to the rebuke from instructors. they would instead lose school. Once they miss school. it becomes hard to catch up. which finally lead to failure and bead out.

Some of these jobs are alone to the African contexts. and can non be ignored when shiping on research on gender and mathematics.

Chacko ( 2004:8 ) reported that the bulk of pupils wanted mathematics to be made merriment and to be related to life where they can see its usage. “Girls in peculiar would wish to see the content related to state of affairss in life where these could be applied. ” Some reported being diffident and afraid to state instructors that they did non understand. to avoid being ridiculed in public ( by chap schoolmates or instructors ) . Some of these issues are typical characteristics of gender differences in African contexts which separate them from those of Western industrial societies. From the researcher’s experiences of learning in secondary schools in Botswana and Nottingham ( UK ) . at that place seems to be common land with Chacko’s statements.

Over the old ages at that place have been attempts to turn to the gender disparities in instruction in Africa. with a peculiar concern on the registration of misss. which for old ages has been really low. As Kitetu ( 2004 ) put it:

The instability in boys’ and girls’ engagement in schooling was linked to the age-long belief in male high quality and female subordination. This state of affairs was farther explained as aggravated by patriarchal patterns. which gave misss no traditional rights to succession
 bucked up penchant to be given to the instruction of a male child instead than of a miss.

These small-scale probes are recent attempts towards a better apprehension of gender derived functions in mathematics from an African position.

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