The topic of my research has been differences in math learning and apt
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The topic of my research has been differences in math learning and aptitude
between boys and girls. This topic was suggested to me by my mentor, Mike
Millo, as it is of particular interest to him. Mr. Millo is an Algebra teacher at Ball
High. Much has been made of gender differences in math by the popular media
and Mr. Millo felt that it would be interesting to examine this topic and explore the
findings of educational researchers. I also found this topic personally intriguing
as I am currently reading the book, Failing At Fairness: How Our Schools Cheat
Girls, by Myra and David Sadker (1994), which explores gender bias in all area of
In researching this topic I found many related research articles and extensive
articles where relevant variables had been measured. I tried to focus on highly
relevant articles, which examined specifically the different abilities of males and
females in math or sought explanations for those differences.
With one exception, the studies I reviewed supported that there are differences in
math related achievement between males and females. Two of thr articles I
reviewed focus on the differences in teacher interaction with male and female
students in math class rooms.
The Structure of Abilities in Math-Precocious Young Children: Gender
Similarities and Differences by: Nancy Orbinson, Robert D. Abbott, Virginia W.
Berninger, and Julie Busse (1996), the following research questions were
1. Can young children who are advanced in mathematical reasoning be located
efficiently by soliciting parent nominations?
2. Do measures of these children's cognitive abilities in other domains also show
advancement and, if so, to what degree?
3. How do measures in verbal and visual-spatial domains relate to mathematical
skills for subgroups divided by grade and gender?
4. What, if any, cognitive gender differences emerge within this group of young
My interest was focused on the last question, which relates to gender differences.
The study showed gender differences apparent in every analysis. However, the
study does not propose reasons for these differences. One of the possible
implications of this study, that gender related differences in math ability are
apparent from such a young age conflicts with information presented some of the
other papers I reviewed.
In three studies, there is a great emphasis on gender related abilities in math which
are related to adolescence. In Gender Roles in Marriage: What do They Mean
for Girls' and Boys' School Achievement, by Kimberly A. Updegraff, Susan M.
McHale and Ann C. Crouter (1996), the researchers evaluate differences in family
dynamics to determine what implications these might have for gender related math
ability. This article was very interesting, although the research question was biting
off more than it could chew. What this article finds is that girls from families who
have a more egalitarian family structure are less likely to suffer a decline in math
ability at adolescence. This article also suggests that it is not the girls "hard
wiring" which causes math ability differences. I interpret this article as implying
that the root of the problem could be in gender role stereo types.
In Single Sex Math Classes: What and For Whom? One School's Experiences,
Richard Durost (1996) reports that when administrators talked to many of the girls
in his school, the girls stated that they felt mentally intimidated by the boys.
Teachers noted that boys asked questions, talked and competed, while girls tended
to reflect, listen, and cooperate. In an attempt to deal with gender related
performance issues, Mr. Durost's school implemented a all female section Algebra
I. The females who participated in the pilot program did show an increase in their
math scores. This paper suggests that the differences in math ability are not "hard
wired". That it may not be a difference in a girl's ability to "do" math or learn
math, but perhaps a difficulty in a girls ability to interact in a co-educational math
related settings which determines her math success. In other words, there might
not be a math problem in and of itself but perhaps math differences were one
manifestation of differences in inter-gender communication and interaction styles.
In Gender Based Education: Why it Works at the Middle School Level, William
C, Perry (1996), the principal of a middle school cites studies from the American
Association of University Women (1991, 1992), supporting the theory that gender
related math ability differences don't become manifest until middle school. Mr.
Perry was very concerned about reports he had read or heard presented showing
that there is bias against girls in the classrooms. In response to the researchers
concerns, a study was done in which participating students were
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Gender and education, Biology of gender, Gender, Sex segregation, Single-sex education, Gender role, Sex differences in humans, Sexism, Girl, Sex differences in intelligence, Mathematical anxiety
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