Gender differences in young adolescents' mathematics and science achievement.Research on gender differences in academic achievement offers educators of young adolescents thought-provoking information on implications and guidance on specific directions to take. The accumulated ac·cu·mu·late
v. ac·cu·mu·lat·ed, ac·cu·mu·lat·ing, ac·cu·mu·lates
To gather or pile up; amass. See Synonyms at gather.
To mount up; increase. literature on this topic covers students' confidence in learning mathematics, sex-typed expectations for performance in mathematics and science, self-estimations of ability to learn science and mathematics, "mathematics risk-taking" behaviors, laboratory experiences for females, and participation in science fairs. In this review of literature, the author pays particular attention to research that: 1) focuses on gender differences in mathematics and science achievement, and 2) offers implications for middle level school educators addressing young adolescents' gender-specific needs.
The Need for Objectivity
Any discussion of the relationship between gender and academic achievement should consider the gender, cultural, racial and socioeconomic so·ci·o·ec·o·nom·ic
Of or involving both social and economic factors.
of or involving economic and social factors
Adj. 1. differences of females and males. Thornburg (1982) asserted that diversity is the hallmark hallmark, mark impressed on silverwork or goldwork to signify official approval of the standard of purity of the metal, also called plate mark. The hallmark was introduced by statute in England in 1300 and enforced by the Goldsmiths' Hall, London. characteristic of young adolescents. This assertion becomes even more important as educators and researchers consider gender differences. Skaalvik (1990) contended that gender stereotypes and differential sex role socialization role socialization Professionalism A process in which a person incorporates knowledge, skills, attitude and affective behavior associated with carrying out a particular role–eg, physician, nurse, technologist, etc. See Affective behaviors. patterns are often used to explain or justify gender differences in achievement. Middle school educators have a professional responsibility to maintain a sense of objectivity, consider females and males as individuals, and avoid basing education decisions on stereotypes and false perceptions. Implications drawn from research also should be free of gender stereotypes.
Academic Achievement in Mathematics
The NAEP NAEP National Assessment of Educational Progress
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NAEP Native American Employment Program 1996 Mathematics Report Card for the Nation and the States, the latest edition of the ongoing survey of students' educational progress in the U.S., measures progress in five mathematics strands: number sense, properties and operations; measurement; geometry geometry [Gr.,=earth measuring], branch of mathematics concerned with the properties of and relationships between points, lines, planes, and figures and with generalizations of these concepts. and spatial sense; data analysis, statistics and probability; and algebra algebra, branch of mathematics concerned with operations on sets of numbers or other elements that are often represented by symbols. Algebra is a generalization of arithmetic and gains much of its power from dealing symbolically with elements and operations (such as and functions. In 1996, 4th-grade males' average scores were higher than scores for 4th-grade females; however, average scores for 8th- and 12th-grade males and females did not show any significant differences (National Assessment of Educational Progress The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as "the Nation's Report Card," is the only nationally representative and continuing assessment of what America's students know and can do in various subject areas. , 1997a).
Another report looking at gender differences in mathematics achievement, Everybody Counts: A Report to the Nation on the Future of Mathematics Education (National Research Council, 1989), maintained that as girls and boys progress through the mathematics curriculum, they show little difference in ability, effort or interest until the adolescent ad·o·les·cent
Of, relating to, or undergoing adolescence.
A young person who has undergone puberty but who has not reached full maturity; a teenager. years. Then, as social pressures increase, girls tend to exert Tess effort in studying mathematics, which progressively limits their future education and, eventually, their career choices. The report also noted that gender differences in mathematics performance result from the accumulated effects of sex-role stereotyping perpetrated by families, schools and society (p. 23). Although American society pays lip service lip service
Verbal expression of agreement or allegiance, unsupported by real conviction or action; hypocritical respect: to being committed to equal opportunity, public attitudes perpetuate per·pet·u·ate
tr.v. per·pet·u·at·ed, per·pet·u·at·ing, per·pet·u·ates
1. To cause to continue indefinitely; make perpetual.
2. stereotypes that "girls really can't do math" (p. 23) and that "math is unfeminine" (p. 23). As long as such stereotypes exist, females will continue to drop out prematurely from mathematics education (National Research Council 1989).
Looking specifically at mathematics achievement, Terwilliger and Titus (1995) studied participants in the University of Minnesota (body, education) University of Minnesota - The home of Gopher.
Address: Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. Talented Youth Mathematics Program (UMTYMP UMTYMP University of Minnesota Talented Youth Math Program ) to determine gender differences of mathematically talented youth on attitudinal measures related to academic success. The researchers examined specific measures related to interest, motivation, confidence, readiness, support, priorities and stereotypes.
Males showed significantly higher levels of motivation, confidence and interest in mathematics than females. Despite the efforts of the UMTYMP program staff to provide a supportive, encouraging atmosphere for females, gender differences increased over the two-year period. Specifically, Terwilliger and Titus found that females' enthusiasm decreased over that time, possibly as a result of peer pressure and competition from emerging extracurricular and social interests.
Focusing on risk-taking and mathematics achievement, Ramos and Lambating (1996) examined females' reluctance, and males' tendency, to be risk-takers. They proposed that students more prone to taking risks perform better on mathematics tests. Therefore, males' tendencies to take more risks might explain their higher mathematics achievement. The researchers documented females' reluctance to guess on multiple choice tests, as well as their tendency to skip more difficult questions, regardless of whether the format is true-false, multiple choice or relationship analysis.
Ramos and Lambating offered two recommendations. First, educators should emphasize females' ability and competence, and encourage them to take risks when solving mathematics problems. Second, they urged test constructors to consider how directions on guessing might influence female test takers. Berkovitz (1979) and Butler and Sperry (1991) considered the effects of mathematics testing and concluded that when instruction and assessment reflect female perspectives, females are just as capable at mathematical analysis Analysis has its beginnings in the rigorous formulation of calculus. It is the branch of mathematics most explicitly concerned with the notion of a limit, whether the limit of a sequence or the limit of a function. as males are.
One study examined the relationship of selected cognitive and affective affective /af·fec·tive/ (ah-fek´tiv) pertaining to affect.
1. Concerned with or arousing feelings or emotions; emotional.
2. variables to mathematics achievement among students in the 6th, 8th, 10th and 12th grades (Tartre & Fennema, 1995). It concluded that males consistently gender-stereotyped the study of mathematics more than do females (i.e., males tend to view mathematics as a male domain); however, both males and females appeared to stereotype stereotype (stĕr`ĕətīp'), plate from which printing is done, made by casting metal in a mold, usually of paper pulp. The process was patented in 1725 by the Scottish inventor William Ged. less in 10th grade than in the 8th grade.
Janice Williams (1994) studied gender differences in 5th-, 8th- and 11th-grade students' perceived abilities to meet successful performance levels, compared with their actual performance levels in mathematics, reading, English and science. Approximately equal numbers of male and female students overestimated their performance capabilities. Williams found that: 1) students with higher expectations for success generally had higher performance outcome scores and 2) the relationship between judgments for performance and actual performance proved stronger in mathematics than in other subject areas.
The underrepresentation of girls and women in mathematics fields has been considered primarily a "girl problem" (Campbell, 1995, p. 225). To avoid blaming girls, educators need to begin changing how they teach mathematics, and reconsider re·con·sid·er
v. re·con·sid·ered, re·con·sid·er·ing, re·con·sid·ers
1. To consider again, especially with intent to alter or modify a previous decision.
2. how they, and boys, treat girls in mathematics classes. Changing institutional perspectives toward females and changing boys' perceptions of who can excel in mathematics can have a powerful effect on girls' mathematics success (Campbell, 1995).
Academic Achievement in Science
The NAEP 1996 Science Report Card for the Nation and the States reports the progress of students' science achievement in grades 4, 8 and 12. The NAEP 1996 science assessment includes two dimensions. The first dimension divides science into three major fields: earth, physical and life. The second dimension defines elements that characterize knowing and doing science: conceptual understanding, scientific investigation and practical reasoning. Male and female students in grades 4 and 8 had similar science achievement scores; in grade 12, however, male students had higher scores than females (National Assessment of Educational Progress, 1997b).
The reason that science reform efforts have had little impact at the middle school level may be because science instruction has suffered an identity crisis. Long neglected, middle school science education has vacillated, in both orientation and philosophy, between being an extension of elementary school elementary school: see school. instruction, and attempting to be a junior high version of high school instruction (Rakow & Barufaldi, 1991).
Senta Raizen (1991) also reported a dismal dis·mal
1. Causing gloom or depression; dreary: dismal weather; took a dismal view of the economy.
2. picture of science instruction and achievement at the middle school level. Although education reform proponents have called for curricular exploration, interdisciplinary in·ter·dis·ci·pli·nar·y
Of, relating to, or involving two or more academic disciplines that are usually considered distinct.
Adjective curricula and student self-evaluation in science classes, many middle school students experience science only as a static body of facts, principles and procedures to be mastered and recalled on demand. The way that science is currently taught in middle school could be a major reason for the gender gap in achievement in the physical sciences, which increases as students move through school. The achievement gap looms large by the 11th grade, with girls lagging Lagging
Strategy used by a firm to stall payments, normally in response to exchange rate projections. considerably behind boys (Raizen, 1991).
The National Science Teachers' Association (1986) maintains that science instruction in the middle school has suffered for several reasons. First, rather than providing young adolescents with opportunities to explore science in their lives, science curricula tend to be watered-down versions of traditional secondary school courses. Second, science sometimes has been taught as if the goals were to make all young adolescents into scientists. Third, some science teachers have little middle school science background. As a result, many teachers may not have an understanding of young adolescents' developmental characteristics.
Lee and Burkam (1996) found that males tended to do much better than females in physical science, while females held a modest advantage in the life sciences. In addition, only about 25 percent of 8th-grade science classes provided even weekly laboratory experiences; such experiences were more likely to occur in middle schools per se than in other types of schools housing an 8th grade. In terms of academic achievement, females benefited much more than boys did from laboratory experiences. Lee and Burkam (1996) concluded that science laboratory experiences and other forms of hands-on learning, particularly in the physical sciences, could help to promote gender equity and science achievement at the middle level.
Judith Meech and M. Gail Jones Gail Jones (born 17 June 1955) is an Australian novelist and academic.
Gail Jones was born in Harvey, Western Australia and educated at the University of Western Australia. (1996) looked at motivation and strategy use and questioned whether females were rote rote 1
1. A memorizing process using routine or repetition, often without full attention or comprehension: learn by rote.
2. Mechanical routine. learners. After studying 213 5th- and 6th-grade students' self-reports of confidence, motivational goals and learning strategies, Meech and Jones (1996) found few gender differences. Compared with females, however, males showed greater confidence in their science abilities. Average-achieving females reported greater use of meaningful learning strategies, whereas low-ability males reported a stronger mastery orientation than low-ability females. Both genders showed greater confidence and mastery motivation in small-group instruction than in whole-class instruction.
Meech and Jones concluded that the evidence did not support females being more likely than males to learn science in a rote or verbatim ver·ba·tim
Using exactly the same words; corresponding word for word: a verbatim report of the conversation.
adv. manner. In a similar vein, Valanides (1996) worked with 195 7th-, 8th- and 9th-grade students to determine their formal reasoning abilities. Valanides did not find differences in how males and females engage in reasoning processes.
Examining participation in science fairs, Greenfield Greenfield, town (1990 pop. 18,666), seat of Franklin co., NW Mass., at the confluence of the Deerfield and Green rivers, near their junction with the Connecticut; settled 1686, set off from Deerfield and inc. 1753. (1995) sought to determine whether the genders differed with respect to: decisions to enter science fairs, project topics (life science, physical science, earth science and mathematics) and project types (research or display). She examined 20 years of participation in the Hawaii State Science and Engineering Fair and concluded that: 1) females are more likely now than 20 years ago to participate; 2) female representation in the physical sciences has increased over the years; 3) females continue to be less likely than males to engage in physical science projects, earth science and mathematics; and 4) females tend to avoid projects based on scientific inquiry and experimental research in favor of upon the side of; favorable to; for the advantage of.
See also: favor those based on library research. In her study of science achievement, Greenfield (1996) concluded that males reported more stereotyped views of science than females.
Donna Jeffe (1995) questioned the historical nature of females' difficulties in science, stating that the historical, social and political context of women's experiences in science challenges the belief that females "historically" (p. 206) have had a difficult time in science. Jeffe explained that women are not historically uninterested in science; rather, many biographies of women from all eras reveal their interest in the field. Jeffe also explored the "weaker sex" (p. 210) argument-the idea that women are more suited for domesticity Domesticity
See also Wifeliness.
leading brand of baking products; byword for one expert in homemaking skills. [Trademarks: Crowley Trade, 56]
Dick Van Dyke Show, The and for certain occupational opportunities. She examined gender and achievement, especially science, in a new light and debunked many historical stereotypes.
The report Project 2061: Science for All Americans (American Association for the Advancement of Science American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), private organization devoted to furthering the work of scientists and improving the effectiveness of science in the promotion of human welfare. , 1989) presented recommendations on the scientific knowledge, skills and attitudes that all students should acquire. Its recommendations cover the nature of science, mathematics and technology; the physical setting; the living environment; the human organism organism /or·gan·ism/ (or´gan-izm) an individual living thing, whether animal or plant.
pleuropneumonia-like organisms any of various bacteria of the genus Mycoplasma, ; human society; the designed world; the mathematical world; historical perspectives; common themes; and habits of the mind. The report urged educators to use interdisciplinary approaches, to base learning on systematic research and well-tested practice, and to emphasize thinking skills over specialized spe·cial·ize
v. spe·cial·ized, spe·cial·iz·ing, spe·cial·iz·es
1. To pursue a special activity, occupation, or field of study.
2. vocabulary and memorized procedures. Specifically, the report also suggested that teachers should begin lessons with questions about nature, engage students actively, concentrate on the collection and use of evidence, provide historical perspectives, insist on clear expression, use a team approach and de-emphasize memorization mem·o·rize
tr.v. mem·o·rized, mem·o·riz·ing, mem·o·riz·es
1. To commit to memory; learn by heart.
2. Computer Science To store in memory: .
Implications for Middle School Educators
This brief review of the literature leads the author to the conclusion that middle school educators should:
1. Remember the need to consider both females and males as individuals - how each of their motivational levels, learning styles, estimations of abilities and other differences affect academic achievement
2. Enhance females' beliefs in their ability to learn mathematics, especially since confidence in learning mathematics consistently relates to mathematics achievement and usually declines around the middle school years
3. Provide adviser-advisee experiences designed to address both females' and males' stereotypical beliefs regarding females' lack of ability to learn mathematics
4. Assist females in forming accurate estimations of their ability to learn science and mathematics
5. Provide collaborative opportunities (i.e., cooperative learning cooperative learning Education theory A student-centered teaching strategy in which heterogeneous groups of students work to achieve a common academic goal–eg, completing a case study or a evaluating a QC problem. See Problem-based learning, Socratic method. and other small group work) for interpersonal in·ter·per·son·al
1. Of or relating to the interactions between individuals: interpersonal skills.
2. support, so that both females and males can learn cooperatively rather than competitively
6. Encourage females to be "mathematics risk-takers" (i.e., encourage females to make "calculated guesses" and answer all test items)
7. Encourage females to participate in science fairs and to select topics related to life science, physical science, earth science and mathematics
8. Provide laboratory experiences and hands-on learning for both females and males, especially in the physical sciences
9. Encourage mathematics and science educators to seek input from nonpublic school and single-sex school single-sex school n → escuela no mixta
single-sex school n → école f non mixte
single-sex school n → professionals whose instructional styles promote and result in high levels of academic achievement.
By understanding the research on gender differences in mathematics and science achievement, middle school educators can begin to offer more equitable equitable adj. 1) just, based on fairness and not legal technicalities. 2) refers to positive remedies (orders to do something, not money damages) employed by the courts to solve disputes or give relief. (See: equity)
EQUITABLE. responses to females' participation and achievement in those fields. Young adolescents are forming gender identities and self-esteem during these years-another reason why middle schools need to provide gender-responsive learning environments and experiences. For many decades, educators, perhaps unknowingly, considered reading and literature as female domains and mathematics and science as male domains. While understanding the need to address gender differences represents a vital first step, making education gender-responsive will require a genuine commitment to provide teaching-learning experiences that reflect females' and males' gender differences.
American Association for the Advancement of Science. (1989). Science for all Americans: A Project 2061 report on literacy goals in science, mathematics, and technology. Washington, DC: Author.
Berkovitz, I. H. (1979). Effects of secondary school experiences on adolescent female development. In M. Sugar (Ed.), Female adolescent development (pp. 173-198.). New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of : Brunner/Mazel.
Butler, D. A., & Sperry, S. (1991). Gender issues and the middle school curriculum. Middle School Journal, 23(2), 18-23.
Campbell, P.M. (1995). Redefining the "girl problem in mathematics." In W. G. Secada, E. Fennema, & L. B. Adajian (Eds.), New directions for equity in mathematics education (pp. 225-241). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Cambridge University Press (known colloquially as CUP) is a publisher given a Royal Charter by Henry VIII in 1534, and one of the two privileged presses (the other being Oxford University Press). .
Greenfield, T. A. (1995). An exploration of gender participation patterns in science competitions. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 32(7), 735-748.
Greenfield, T. A. (1996). Gender, ethnicity ethnicity Vox populi Racial status–ie, African American, Asian, Caucasian, Hispanic , science achievement, and attitudes. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 33(8), 901-933.
Jeffe, D. B. (1995). About girls' "difficulties" in science: A social, not a personal matter. Teachers' College Record, 97(2), 206-226.
Lee, V. E., & Burkam, D. T. (1996). Gender differences in middle grade science achievement: Subject domain, ability level, and course emphasis. Science Education, 80(6), 613-650.
Meech, J. L., & Jones, M. G. (1996). Gender differences in motivation and strategy use in science: Are girls rote learners? Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 33(4), 393-406.
National Assessment of Educational Progress. (1997a). NAEP 1996 mathematics report card for the nation and the states. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), as part of the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences (IES), collects, analyzes, and publishes statistics on education and public school district finance information in the United States; conducts studies .
National Assessment of Educational Progress. (1997b). NAEP 1996 science report card for the nation and the states. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.
National Research Council. (1989). Everybody counts: A report to the nation on the future of mathematics education. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
National Science Teachers' Association. (1986). Position statement: Science education for middle and junior high school students. Science and Children, 24(3), 62-63.
Raizen, S. A. (1991). The state of science education. In S. K. Majumbar, L. M. Rosenfeld, P. A. Rubba, E. W. Miller, & R. F. Schmalz schmaltz also schmalz
a. Excessively sentimental art or music.
b. Maudlin sentimentality.
2. Liquid fat, especially chicken fat. (Eds.), Science education in the United States Education in the United States is provided mainly by government, with control and funding coming from three levels: federal, state, and local. School attendance is mandatory and nearly universal at the elementary and high school levels (often known outside the United States as the : Issues, crises, and priorities (pp. 25-43). Phillipsburg, NJ: The Pennsylvania Academy of Science.
Rakow, S. J., & Barufaldi, J.P. (1991). Science for middle and junior high school students. In S. K. Majumbar, L. M. Rosenfeld, P. A. Rubba, E. W. Miller & R. F. Schmalz (Eds.), Science education in the United States: Issues, crises, and priorities (pp. 92-105). Phillipsburg, NJ: The Pennsylvania Academy of Science.
Ramos, I., & Lambating, J. (1996). Risk taking: Gender differences and educational opportunity. School Science and Mathematics, 96(2), 94-98.
Skaalvik, E. M. (1990). Gender differences in general academic self-esteem and in success expectations on defined academic problems. Journal of Educational Psychology, 82(3), 593-598.
Tartre, L. A., & Fennema, E. (1995). Mathematics achievement and gender: A longitudinal study longitudinal study
a chronological study in epidemiology which attempts to establish a relationship between an antecedent cause and a subsequent effect. See also cohort study. of selected cognitive and affective variables (Grades 6-12). Educational Studies in Mathematics, 28, 199-217.
Terwilliger, J. S., & Titus, J. C. (1995). Gender differences in attitudes and attitude changes among mathematically talented youth. Gifted Child gifted child
Child naturally endowed with a high degree of general mental ability or extraordinary ability in a specific domain. Although the designation of giftedness is largely a matter of administrative convenience, the best indications of giftedness are often those Quarterly, 39(1), 29-35.
Thornburg, H. (1982). The total early adolescent in contemporary society. High School Journal, 65, 272-278.
Valanides, N. C. (1996). Formal reasoning and science teaching. School Science and Mathematics, 96(2), 99-107.
Williams, J. E. (1994). Gender differences in high school students' efficacy-expectation / performance discrepancies across four subject matter domains. Psychology in the Schools, 31, 232-237.
M. Lee Manning is Associate Professor, Department of Educational Curriculum and Instruction, Darden College of Education, Old Dominion University “ODU” redirects here. For other uses, see ODU (disambiguation).
The university was recently named one of the best colleges in the Southeast by The Princeton Review. , Norfolk, Virginia Norfolk is an independent city in the Commonwealth of Virginia, in the United States of America. With a population of 234,403 as of the 2000 census, Norfolk is Virginia's second-largest incorporated city. .