Gendered beliefs about mathematics among Australian and Israeli grade 9 students

Year: 2007

Author: Forgasz, Helen, Mittelberg, David

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

In English-speaking, Western countries, mathematics has traditionally been viewed as a “male domain”, a discipline more suited to males than to females. Using two instruments (Leder & Forgasz, 2002) tapping students’ beliefs about the gendering of mathematics, recent data from Australian and American students appeared to challenge the traditional gender-stereotyped view of the discipline. Whether the patterns of beliefs were similar or different among students from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds were of interest in the study reported here. The two instruments were translated into Hebrew and Arabic and administered to a large sample of grade 9 students attending Jewish and Arab schools in northern Israel. Data from only one of the two instruments, “Mathematics as a gendered domain” are reported in this paper. When compared, the Israeli and Australian students held similar views, although the Israelis’ beliefs less strongly challenged the masculine image of mathematics. Whether cultural differences could be identified was explored by comparing the data from Jewish and Arab students. The Israeli Jewish students’ views were found to be very closely aligned with those of the Australian students. That is, mathematics was considered a neutral domain, and neither a male or a female domain. The Israeli Arabs students’ beliefs, however, suggested that they considered mathematics to be either a neutral or a female domain and were unsure if it was a male domain. Gender differences among the Israeli Arab students revealed interesting patterns that were not easily explained.