Who can('t) do maths - boys/girls? An international comparison

Year: 1999

Author: Forgasz, Helen, Leder, Gilah, Kaur, Berinderjeet

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

There has been a long held perception that the field of mathematics is more appropriate for males than for females. The construct, mathematics as a male domain, has been considered a critical variable in explanations for females' under-representation in the most demanding mathematics subjects offered at school and higher education, and in related careers. The widely used Fennema-Sherman Mathematics attitude scales [MAS] consist of nine subscales including Mathematics as a male domain [MD]. It has recently been argued that the content of some of the MD items is anachronistic and that responses to others can no longer be reliably interpreted. Two versions of a new scale, loosely based on the MD, have been developed and trialed in Australia and Singapore with students in grades 7 to 10. In this paper, we present general findings which indicate changes in perceptions about some aspects of the gendering of mathematics, discuss the similarities and differences in the perceptions of students in the two countries, and the implications of the results obtained for equity in mathematics education . The overall findings contribute an important dimension to the debate in contemporary society on concerns about the educational disadvantage of boys.