Mathematics and English: Stereotyped domains?

Year: 1994

Author: Forgasz, Helen J., Leder, Gilah C.

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Historically, mathematics and English are academic disciplines which have been gender-stereotyped: mathematics as "masculine" and English as "feminine". Mathematics is also generally considered to be more important. In this paper we report the findings of a study of Grade 9 students' beliefs about themselves as learners of mathematics and English.

A questionnaire which included closed and open-ended items was administered to the students. The questionnaire was in three parts and items prepared to determine beliefs about mathematics were slightly adapted for English. For both subject areas, students' causal attributions for success and failure and their beliefs about their achievement levels were ascertained from closed items scored on five- point Likert-type scales. Students' responses to open-ended items reflected the extent to which each discipline was stereotyped.

When beliefs about mathematics were compared to those about English, males were found to be more consistent about the two subjects than were females. Gender differences were found in the patterns of responses about mathematics and about English; greater variation was apparent for English. Both males and females stereotyped the two subjects in predictable directions. For example, more females than males disliked mathematics while more females than males liked English. The males were found to be more stereotyped about each discipline than were the females. While very few of the female students believed men were better at mathematics, over 20% of the male students did. For English, more males than females believed women were better at the subject.