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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Sex differences in mathematics in Scotland Kerr, Peter


This study examines sex differences in mathematics in Scotland. The study is based on longitudinal data from the 1985 Scottish School Leavers Surve3r of 5726 students in one school district. It compares the distribution of scores for boys and girls on the 1984 Ordinary Grade (O-grade) Arithmetic examination, taken by the majority of Scottish students at the end of compulsory schooling, and matches these results with indicators of male and female ability, socioeconomic status (SES), previous arithmetic achievement in primary school, and destinations upon completion of compulson' schooling. The findings suggest that boys slightly outperformed girls on the O-grade Arithmetic examination. Girls were more likely to present for this examination, but more girls than boys scored at the lower end of the distribution. These differences did not vary substantially for pupils at different levels of ability, SES, or prior achievement in arithmetic. The gender gap in mathematics favoring boys, however, did become significant after the period of compulsory schooling. More girls than boys stayed on at school, but fewer of them elected to take further training in mathematics. Boys took more advanced mathematics courses in the last two years of high school and performed better than girls on those courses. Policy implications of these findings and directions for research are discussed. Teachers and counsellors must become informed about the lack of female persistence in mathematics and take steps to alleviate it. Future research should examine why girls in Scotland do not keep up with boys and the factors that have enabled some girls to overcome this general tendency.

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