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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An international study of gender differences in mathematics achievement Ma, Xin

Abstract

This study examined gender-related issues in mathematics based on achievement data of Populations A and B from The Second International Mathematics Study (SIMS). The purposes of this study, which involved two Canadian educational systems and two Asian educational systems, were 1)to investigate potential interaction effects between gender and educational system in two populations and in two mathematical areas, algebra and geometry; 2) to analyze the variability of mathematics achievement between male and female students in each mathematical area within and across educational systems; 3)to compare and contrast situations of gender differences between algebra and geometry within and across educational systems. Factorial design, Hartley's F max test, and box plots were the major statistical approaches used in this study. The results showed that no two-factor interaction effect between gender and educational system in each mathematical area was of statistical significance in either population. Further, there were no statistically significant gender differences in algebra. In geometry, gender differences were statistically significant in Population B. Male students outperformed females from a perspective of across educational systems. Within each educational system, no gender differences in each mathematical area were found to be statistically significant in either population. Therefore, reported gender differences in geometry were more likely to be a general rather than a local phenomenon. The results of investigation on the variability of mathematics achievement illustrated two patterns. One pattern involved British Columbia and Ontario. No significant differences on the achievement variability between males and females were found. In general, the majority of both male and female students in the two Canadian provinces performed equally well in algebra and geometry. For the two populations, within gender gaps were serious, especially for Population B. Another different pattern was found in Hong Kong and Japan. In Population A, no significant differences on the achievement variability between boys and girls were found. Generally, the majority of both boys and girls performed equally well in algebra and geometry, although slightly more boys than girls were found at the bottom end of the achievement distribution. The within gender gaps were serious for this population, although they were not as wide as those found in British Columbia and Ontario. In Population B, a statistically significant difference on the variability of algebra achievement between male and female students was found in Hong Kong. Although male and female students equally dominated the top end of the achievement distribution, males in the lowest 10% of the male distribution and females in the lowest 10% of the female distribution tended to perform unequally in algebra and geometry. Female students dominated the bottom end of the achievement distribution on every subtests for this population. The within gender gaps were narrow in this population. Finally, findings in this study did not support the opinion of a biological explanation of gender differences in mathematics. Furthermore, findings suggested that each educational system affected the academic development of both male and female students in the same ways or directions, although one gender might be affected more seriously than the other.

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