Exploring Perceived Personal and Social Gender Stereotypes of Maths with Secondary Students: An Explanation for Continued Gender Differences in Participation?

Year: 2000

Author: WATT, H

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Students from each of three sequential cohorts (N=397, 414, 459 for cohorts 1 to 3 respectively) indicated their intended levels of participation in both HSC maths course selection and career plans, revealing a persistent gender imbalance in higher levels of participation favouring boys. Given this continued gender difference in participation, explanations are sought in students' perceptions of personal and social stereotypes about maths being more suited to males or females (or neither). Students rated the extent to which they themselves perceived maths as more suited to males or females, as well as the extent to which they perceived 'society' as perceiving maths as more suited to males or females. In addition, students provided qualitative explanations for their ratings of personal and social gender stereotypes.

Quantitative and qualitative data were collated for each gender within each cohort, and explanations thematically grouped. Despite most students' ratings favouring neither gender, stereotypes favoured boys for maths where these occurred. Social stereotypes were also more prevalent than personal stereotypes, perhaps reflecting cultural change and perhaps indicating a degree of 'political correctness' on the part of students' reported self-perceptions. An age trend was evident for personal but not social stereotypes, with a greater proportion of older than younger students reporting personal stereotypes. The study focuses on personal versus social stereotypes for boys versus girls, how these may develop and how these might contribute to the gender imbalance in maths participation.