Gender Differences

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Gender differences

The topic of my research has been differences in math learning and

aptitude between boys and girls. This topic was suggested to me by my

mentor, Mike Millo, as it is of particular interest to him. Mr. Millo is an

Algebra teacher at Ball High. Much has been made of gender differences

in math by the popular media and Mr. Millo felt that it would be

interesting to examine this topic and explore the findings of educational

researchers. I also found this topic personally intriguing as I am currently

reading the book, Failing At Fairness: How Our Schools Cheat Girls, by

Myra and David Sadker (1994), which explores gender bias in all area of

education. In researching this topic I found many related research articles

and extensive articles where relevant variables had been measured. I tried

to focus on highly relevant articles, which examined specifically the

different abilities of males and females in math or sought explanations for

those differences. With one exception, the studies I reviewed supported

that there are differences in math related achievement between males and

females. Two of thr articles I reviewed focus on the differences in teacher

interaction with male and female students in math class rooms. The

Structure of Abilities in Math-Precocious Young Children: Gender

Similarities and Differences by: Nancy Orbinson, Robert D. Abbott,

Virginia W. Berninger, and Julie Busse (1996), the following research

questions were explored: 1. Can young children who are advanced in

mathematical reasoning be located efficiently by soliciting parent

nominations? 2. Do measures of these children's cognitive abilities in other

domains also show advancement and, if so, to what degree? 3. How do

measures in verbal and visual-spatial domains relate to mathematical skills

for subgroups divided by grade and gender? 4. What, if any, cognitive

gender differences emerge within this group of young precocious

children? My interest was focused on the last question, which relates to

gender differences. The study showed gender differences apparent in

every analysis. However, the study does not propose reasons for these

differences. One of the possible implications of this study, that gender

related differences in math ability are apparent from such a young age

conflicts with information presented some of the other papers I reviewed.

In three studies, there is a great emphasis on gender related abilities in

math which are related to adolescence. In Gender Roles in Marriage:

What do They Mean for Girls' and Boys' School Achievement, by

Kimberly A. Updegraff, Susan M. McHale and Ann C. Crouter (1996),

the researchers evaluate differences in family dynamics to determine what

implications these might have for gender related math ability. This article

was very interesting, although the research question was biting off more

than it could chew. What this article finds is that girls from families who

have a more egalitarian family structure are less likely to suffer a decline in

math ability at adolescence. This article also suggests that it is not the girls

"hard wiring" which causes math ability differences. I interpret this article

as implying that the root of the problem could be in gender role stereo

types. In Single Sex Math Classes: What and For Whom? One School's

Experiences, Richard Durost (1996) reports that when administrators

talked to many of the girls in his school, the girls stated that they felt

mentally intimidated by the boys. Teachers noted that boys asked

questions, talked and competed, while girls tended to reflect, listen, and

cooperate. In an attempt to deal with gender related performance issues,

Mr. Durost's school implemented a all female section Algebra I. The

females who participated in the pilot program did show an increase in

their math scores. This...
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