Gender differences in mathematics performance : analysis of attainment and attitudes in mathematics of girls and boys : detailed appraisal of theories and pressures that influence girls' underachievement and underparticipation in the subject
Statistics show that boys perform better in mathematics tests than girls. In order to make a refined assessment of the magnitude of gender differences in mathematics performance, a study was made of one thousand 16+ mathematics scripts to find the precise topics on which girls and boys differ significantly in performance. These concepts were found to be concerned with scale or ratio, spatial problems, space-time relationships and probability questions. Differences were found in performance between girls and boys at each ten-percentile level through the ability range. A longitudinal study also revealed differences in mathematics 'performance through the years of secondary education. There is no convincing evidence that the discrepancy can be accounted for by innate or genetic reasons. Intervention programmes have been found to improve the performance of girls in the weak areas of spatial awareness, proportionality and problem solving. In addition, a study was made of gender attitudes towards mathematics. Ten secondary schools were surveyed and the results revealed a marked decrease in the attitudes of third and fourth form girls. During these difficult adolescent years girls and boys are susceptible to strong internal and external pressures. Corresponding differences were also found across the ability range. These social pressures are concerned with teacher influence, social interaction, type of grouping, sex stereotyping, choices, teaching materials and careers advice.