Adolescent girls and mathematics: classroom performance, attitudes toward mathematics and perceptions of parental attitudes /
Madonia, Mary Jane.
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The purpose of this study was to determine the extent to which gender differences exist in student attitudes toward mathematics and in their performance in mathematics at the Grade Seven and Eight level. The study also questioned how parents influence the attitudes of this grade level of male and female students toward mathematics. Historically, the literature has demonstrated gender differences in the attitudes of students toward mathematics, and in parental support for classroom performance in mathematics. This study was an attempt to examine these differences at one senior public school in the Peel Board of Education. One hundred three Grade Seven and Eight students at a middle school in the Peel Board of Education volunteered to take part in a survey that examined their attitudes toward mathematics, their perceptions of their parents' attitudes toward mathematics and support for good performance in the mathematics classroom, parental expectations for education and future career choices. Gender differences related to performance levels in the mathematics classroom were examined using Pearson contingency analyses. Items from the survey that showed significant differences involved confidence in mathematics and confidence in writing mathematics tests, as well as a belief in the ability to work on mathematics problems. Male students in both the high and low performance groups demonstrated higher levels of confidence than the females in those groups. Female students, however, indicated interest in careers that would require training and knowledge of higher mathematics. Some of the reasons given to explain the gender differences in confidence levels included socialization pressures on females, peer acceptance, and attribution of success. Perceived parental support showed no significant differences across gender groups or performance levels. Possible explanations dealt with the family structure of the participants in the study. Studies that, in the past, have demonstrated gender differences in confidence levels were supported by this study, and discussed in detail. Studies that reported on differences in parental support for student performance, based on the gender of the parent, were not confirmed by this study, and reasons for this were also discussed. The implications for the classroom include: 1) build on the female students' strengths that will allow them to enjoy their experiences in mathematics; 2) stop using the boys as a comparison group; and 3) make students more aware of the need to continue studying mathematics to ensure a wider choice of future careers.