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Sex Difference in the Attitude of Students Towards the Study of Mathematics

by Farouq Mensah (Author) Obed Yankson (Author)

Bachelor Thesis 2017 66 Pages

Mathematics - Miscellaneous

Excerpt

TABLE OF CONTENT

DECLARATION

ABSTRACT

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

DEDICATION

TABLE OF CONTENT

LIST OF TABLES

CHAPTER
1. INTRODUCTION
Overview
Background to the Study
Statement of the Problem
Purpose of the Study
Research Questions
Significance of the Study
Delimitations of the Study
Limitations of the Study
Definition of Terms
Organization of the Study

2. REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE
Overview
Some Definition of Attitude
Attitudinal Variables
The Selected Attitudinal Variables
Influence of Teachers in Mathematics
Influence of Parents in Mathematics
Students Perceived Usefulness of Mathematics
Influence of Peers
Studies Related To Attitude towards Mathematics
Summary

3. METHODOLOGY
Overview
Research Design
Population and Sample
Research Instrument
Validity of the Research Instrument
Data Collection Procedure
Mode of Data Collection

4. RESULTS, FINDINGS AND DISCUSSION
Overview
Preliminary Analysis
Responses to Questionnaire
Comparisons of Students’ Positive Responses
Findings and Discussions
Influence of the Mathematics Teacher
Influence of Parents
Perceived Usefulness of Mathematics
Peer Influence
Summary of the Findings

5. SUMMARY, CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Overview
Summary of the Study
Conclusion
Recommendations
Recommendations for Further Studies

REFERENCES

APPENDIX A

APPENDIX B

LIST OF TABLES Table

1. Distribution of items in the students’ questionnaire

2. Age Distribution of Students in the Selected Schools

3. Sex distribution of the students

4. Percentages of Students’ Positive, Negative and Natural Responses to the Attitudinal Variables

5. Percentages of Students’ Positive Responses to the Attitudinal Variables in the Selected Schools

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

We first and foremost wish to show our appreciation to the Almighty God whose unfailing love has guided as through this course to a success conclusion. Our profound gratitude also goes to our supervisor Mr. Alexander Asare - Inkoom, for his advice, encouragement, adequate time, guidance and support he offered us for the successful completion of this research, we say Sir, thank you and may the Almighty God richly bless you.

We also express our appreciation to the head of the various institutions, mathematics teachers and all the staff for their maximum cooperation. Thank you and Allah bless you.

Finally to all who in one way or the other, friends and relatives who kept on encouraging us with reassuring words that urges us on, we say thank you to you all and may Allah richly bless you all.

DEDICATION

This work is dedicated to beloved parents Mr. K. I. Mensah and Mrs. Sakina Mensah and Mr. Peter Yankson and Madam Georgina Embir.

CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION

Overview

This chapter focuses on the background to the study, statement of the problem, purpose of the study, and the research questions. It also discusses the significance of the study, delimitation of the study, limitations of the study, definition of terms and organization of the study.

Background to the Study

Mathematics education is to a nation what protein is to a young human being. As a vital tool for the understanding and application of science and technology, the discipline plays the vital role of a precursor and harbinger to the much needed technological and of course national development, which has become an imperative in the developing nations of the world. Most people have heard the age-old saying, "attitude is the key to success". Various quotes can be retrieved that subscribe to this philosophy. In education, research suggests that student attitudes toward a subject lead to academic success (Royster, Harris, and Schoeps, 1999; Popham, 2005). Generally speaking, mathematics is a subject that is often disliked, motivating researchers to investigate how mathematics attitude affects mathematics learning. In realization of the significant role of Mathematics to nation building, the government of Ghana made the subject compulsory in the school curriculum at the both the elementary and secondary school levels. This was aimed at ensuring the introduction of Mathematics literacy and the associated equipment with logical and abstract thinking needed for living, problem solving and educational furtherance. For full realization of this laudable objective of Mathematics education, subject mastery and demonstrated achievement should be evenly distributed across both sexes. Unfortunately, gender inequality in education has remained a perennial problem of global scope (Bordo, 2001; UNESCO, 2003; Reid, 2003). Again, because of the indispensable nature of mathematics in other fields of study in schools and other professions, the study of mathematics serves as some kind of major prerequisite knowledge that an individual is expected to have in order for him or her to attain further education at the tertiary level.

Mathematics by nature is both pure, theoretical adventure of the mind and a practically applied science. Like other sciences, mathematics reflects the laws of the material world around us and serves as a powerful instructional tool for understanding nature. Mathematics serves as yardstick to develop an individual’s life since it is applicable to many other fields of study, simply because as an applied science it reflects the active will of the individual and contemplative reasoning and desire for artistic perfection of human mind. It serves as a backbone in science and technology and has become the pioneering subject to be mastered and applied in other areas of study. The study of mathematics gives both a glimpse into the theoretical nature of mathematics an opportunity to relate the mathematics to everyday lives. Boehm (1959) stated that Plato considered mathematics indispensable to the cultural man. In many daily activities, mathematics still proves to be widely applied in bringing comfort in many situations such as determination of change that a customer needs to collect after purchasing an item, haring and money counting, just to mention a few. It is therefore agreed that if people are successful in mathematics, they may be able to apply the knowledge in mathematics to other fields of study.

In spite of the numerous applications of mathematics, many students do not feel comfortable learning the subject. Fynn (2000) quoted Selkirk from Bishop saying, “Mathematics is a much unloved subject in our school”. According to Peter Richards (1982) “If asked to sum up their views of mathematics at school, many people will describe it in terms of one, if not all of the three D’s that is, Dull, Difficult and Disliked”. This suggests the kind of attitude students have towards mathematics. Dornuki (1974) in her research work concluded that students who have negative attitude towards mathematics do not study the subject on their own, but those with positive attitude towards the subject do study on their own and discover new things for themselves.

Mathematics is a science subject and some gender-based science researchers have reported that what both the ‘feminist empiricists’ and the ‘liberal feminist critics’ seem to agree is that females in principle will produce exactly the same scientific knowledge as males provided that sufficient rigor is undertaken in scientific inquiry ( Barton, 1998; Howes, 2002; Sinnes, 2006). They also believe that initiatives that build on the assumption that females and males are equal in their approach to science, and that inequality in science and science education is caused by political, educational and social factors external to science, would be expected to focus on removing these external obstacles. There is the need therefore to give boys and girls exactly the same opportunities and challenges.

The gaps between male and female students’ mathematics achievement is gradually beginning to diminish (Gutbezahl, 1995). However, female students are still underrepresented in advanced mathematics class as well as in careers involving mathematics (Ker, 1994; Stage and Maple, 1996). The emphasis in Ghana had been on the girl child because several studies had revealed that there is generally a difference in attitude between girls and boys towards mathematics and that girl’s attitude are more negative than those of their male counterparts. Example Fennema (1979) had observed that mathematics had traditionally been regarded as male domain in that male superiority in mathematics learning had been accepted as a fact almost without questioning. The research seeks to verify the situation as it stands now. Due to this, the Ministry of Education for the past decade has been organizing Science Technology and Mathematics Education (STME) Clinics for girls’ education in the Senior High Schools every year. Recently these clinics have been extended to the basic levels as well and decentralized to the district levels for greater efficiency. The Mathematics Association of Ghana (MAG) also organizes regular workshops annually throughout the country to sensitize teachers on the importance of mathematics in the development of the country and improving ways of teaching and learning of mathematic

For many years now, research on gender differences in the study of mathematics had been done and some strategies have been in place to reduce the gap. The efforts made to reduce the gap can be attributed to the realization that mathematics is fitter in career choices and those who opted out of mathematics were denied some important opportunities (Clifford, 1998).

However, some studies done in these countries such as Germany had contradicted this view. The study by Kaiser - Messmer (1994) done in Germany showed that boys performed better than girls and recently Fennema’s (2000) study showed that gender differences still existed in learning complex task in middle and secondary schools in America.

Gender-achievement studies in mathematics include Abiam and Odok (2006) who found no significant relationship between gender and achievement in number and numeration, algebraic processes and statistics. They however found the existence of a weak significant relationship in Geometry and Trigonometry. Though globally the issue of gender inequality in Science, Technology and Mathematics Education (STME) has produced inconclusive results, one meta analysis covering the period 1974 - 1987 on Mathematics and gender led to two conclusions: the average gender gap is very small (statistically insignificant), and the fact that the differences tend to decline with time (Friedman, 1989).Another meta-analysis of 100 studies in gender and Mathematics performance corroborated the above findings(Hyde, Fennema and Lamon, 1990). Some scholars blame the colonizers of Africa for applying direct transfer of Western Science curricula, examinations and teaching methods, which fail to address the continental challenges of Africa. Yoloye (1998) submitted that the result of this direct transfer of western curricula is a science and mathematics education in most African countries that is exemplified by under context knowledge being transmitted by poorly trained teachers in under-resourced and sometimes overcrowded classrooms. As a consequence, the situation in Ghana is that, academic performance in Mathematics education is still deplorably low, both in certificate and non certificate examinations. This poor Mathematics performance of students is further worsened by gender imbalance leading to the problem which now constitutes a major research focus across the globe (UNESCO, 2003). In a study by Opolot-Okurut (2005) it was found that for all the attitudinal variables (anxiety, confidence and motivation), males had higher attitude than females. That is, differences in student attitude toward mathematics based on gender were confirmed. Attitudes are known to have positive relationship with student achievement. This may be an indication that males perform better than female mathematically as a result of their higher attitude towards the study of mathematics.

This research study seeks to investigate the attitudes of boys and girls towards the study of mathematics in some selected Senior High Schools in the Cape Coast Metropolis.

Statement of the Problem

Most people agree to some extent that mathematics is an indispensable subject. Mathematics in Ghana is one of the compulsory subjects in the school curriculum at both the elementary and senior high school levels. Mathematics educators in an effort through the Ministry of Education organized science technology and mathematics education (STME) clinics for girls in senior high schools every year. These clinics have been extended to the basic levels and decentralized to the district levels for greater efficiency.

Generally, students are prejudiced against the subject for a number of reasons. The Attitude towards Mathematics Inventory (ATMI) by Tapia and Marsh (2004) revealed that the following factors contributed to students prejudice against the subject:

1. Concepts in mathematics are related and the topic which combines a number of concepts makes it difficult for students to follow.
2. Some teachers of mathematics are impatient in teaching the subject.
3. Inappropriate methodologies and pedagogical strategies.
4. Lack of correlation between pencil and paper and the manipulative materials used in teaching.

The irony of the problem is that almost every other subject (i.e. excluding mathematics) is becoming increasingly mathematically oriented. Thus whilst the subject is becoming increasingly important, it is also increasingly becoming unpopular among boys and girls in the second cycle institutions. This research study has been designed to investigate the attitude of boys and girls towards the study of mathematics in three randomly selected schools in the Cape Coast metropolis.

Purpose of the Study

In assessing mathematics performance and potential of students, attitudes toward mathematics and mathematics learning are frequently cited as factors contributing to success (Dickens and Cornell, 1993). The purpose of the study was to investigate the attitudes of senior high school students towards the study of mathematics and to compare the attitudes of boys and girls towards the study of mathematics.

Research Questions

To achieve the purpose of this study, the following research questions were posed.

1. Is there any difference in attitude towards mathematics between males and females in the mixed school?
2. Is there any difference in attitude towards mathematics between males and females in the single sex schools?
3. Is there any difference in attitude towards mathematics between males in the mixed school and females in single sex school?
4. Is there any difference in attitude towards mathematics between females in the mixed schools and males in the single sex school?
5. Is there any difference in attitude towards mathematics between females and males in the selected schools?

Significance of the Study

In order for the study to be significant in mathematics education, it was expected to provide information on students’ attitude towards the subject that will help teachers to be gender sensitive when teaching by considering the needs of both sexes. The study is also expected to help students to develop positive attitude towards the subject by ensuring positive reinforcements. Also, it is anticipated that the study would provide valuable information on students’ attitude that would help curriculum planners and mathematics educators as to what program to promote in their educational policies to positively influenced students attitude towards mathematics. The study is also expected to generate interest in further research attitude of boys and girls towards the study of mathematics by considering other attitudinal variables which were not considered in this particular study.

Delimitations of the Study

The research was restricted to three randomly selected senior high schools in the Cape Coast metropolis of the Central Region of Ghana. Two single sex schools, (one female and one male) and one mixed school in the metropolis were randomly selected. The schools selected are Saint Augustine's College, University of Ghana High School (Worker’s Collage) and Wesley Girls' High School. Conclusions made from this study, therefore, cannot be extended beyond this population sampled.

Limitations of the Study

This study was centered on the form three students based on the assumption that they have gained some experience in the school and also they are not over burdened with final year examinations.

Christ the King Academy School was randomly selected for the research but the school authorities did not grant researchers the permission to carry out the research in the school. This compelled researchers to do a new random sampling excluding Christ the King Academy.

Definition of Terms

The following terms as used in the study have been defined below:

1. Attitude: A mental behavioral position, way of thinking or feeling or actions taken towards mathematics.
2. Mixed School: An educational system where males and females are taught in the same environment.
3. Single Sex School: a school consisting of only females or males.

Organization of the Study

The research study consists of five chapters.

Chapter one is the introduction which is made up of the background to the study, statement of the study, purpose of the study, research questions, significance of the study, delimitation of the study, limitations of the study, definition of terms and organization of the study.

Chapter two reviews related literature on gender attitude towards the study of mathematics. It emphasizes the nature of attitudes, some attitudinal variables used in the study and studies done in the area of attitude of (students) boys and girls towards the study of mathematics.

Chapter three is the methodology. It discusses the research design, population, sample and sample procedure, instruments and data analysis procedure.

Chapter four deals with findings, results and discussions. It states the purpose of the study and summaries statistical tools and procedure used in the study. Finally, chapter five deals with the summary of the research. It gives an overview of the research problem and methodology. It also touches on the outcomes in reference to the literature or previous findings and makes recommendations and suggestions for further research study.

CHAPTER TWO REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE

Overview

The chapter looks at the review of related literature on an attitude of boys and girls towards the study of mathematics. The related literature has been reviewed and presented under the following headings:

- Some definitions of attitude
- Attitudinal Variables
- The selected attitudinal variables
- Studies related to attitude towards mathematics
- Summary

Some Definitions of Attitude

The concept of attitude towards things is very important. This is primarily because attitude plays a very vital role in the study of mathematics. Research has established the importance of attitude towards mathematics and mathematics achievement (Webster and Fisher; 2000, Granville and Dika, 2002).

The oxford pocket school dictionary, new edition (2005) defines attitude as “a way of thinking or behaving”, (p. 42).

Other definitions of attitude by other people on attitude are given below

Aikens (1974) referred to attitude as a “learned predisposition or tendency on the part of an individual to respond positively or negatively to some object, concept or another person”, (p. 39). Meleod (1992) added, “The positive or negative feeling is of moderate intensity and reasonable stability”, (p. 41).

According to Neale (1969) “attitude towards mathematics is an aggregated measure of liking or disliking of mathematics, a tendency to engage in or avoid mathematical activities, a belief that is good or bad at mathematics, and a belief that mathematics is useful or useless”, (p. 33).

Also, Suydam and Weaver (1975) illustrated that in theory and practice, “teachers and other mathematics educators generally believe that children learn and perform better in mathematics if they like mathematics”, (p. 49). Hence one’s interest in mathematics should therefore be positive and it is advisable to direct attention towards creating, developing, maintaining and reinforcing work done in mathematics.

Allports (1935) also defined attitude as “state of an individual’s mind that has resulted through experience and directs how he or she is related or associated with it”. (p. 76).

All these definitions of attitude suggest one basic fact which is attitude can change.

Attitudinal Variables

One of the most common explanations for gender disparities in mathematics achievement has focused on attitude that students have towards mathematics. Several studies have reported that there are gender differences in attitude towards mathematics with girls showing more negative attitudes than boys. In general, most of the studies reported that, compared with boys, girls lacked confidence, had debilitating causal attribution patterns, perceived mathematics as a male domain, and were anxious about mathematics (Hyde et al, 1990; Sayers, 1994; Ma and Kishor, 1997; Vermeer et al, 2000; Casey et al, 2001). The causes of the gender differences in mathematics attitude were found to be multifaceted. Researchers have identified parental and societal attitudes (Wong, 1992; Papanastatsiou, 2000), and students’ classroom experiences. (Forgasz and Leder, 1996; Fisher and Rickards, 1998), as being influential in making girls internalizes the feeling that they are inferior to boys in mathematics. Studies that have considered classroom environments consider teachers’ classroom behaviours to be a factor associated with students’ attitudes. Fisher and Rickards (1998) found that student’s attitudes towards mathematics tended to be more positive in classrooms where students perceived greater leadership and helping friendly behaviours in their teachers, and more negative in classrooms where students perceived their teachers as admonishing and enforcing strict behaviours. Other researchers have compared the effect of single-sex and co- educational classrooms upon students’ attitudes (Forgasz and Leder, 1996; Norton and Rennie, 1998). Students in single sex schools were found to have more positive attitudes than students in the co-educational l schools. For example, Norton and Rennie’s (1998) study of grades 8 to 12 in four secondary schools (one private single-sex girls’ school, one private single-sex boys’ school, one coeducational state high school, and one coeducational private school ) in Queensland, Australia, found that boys in the single-sex schools had the most positive attitudes. The attitudes of boys in coeducational schools were similar to the girls in the single-sex school, and the girls in the coeducational schools reported less positive attitude on most scales. All these results suggest that strategies that target teachers’ instructional practices may have an effect on students’ attitudes towards mathematics.

Concern became focused on the reasons for a lack of women in higher level mathematics and careers for which mathematics was a prerequisite. Fennema and Sherman (1977) claimed that a lack of mathematical background knowledge prevented women from entering a variety of occupations. In Australia , mathematics results are also used as a critical filter for higher education and future careers (Willis, 1995) and sex differences in participation remain a concern (Cuttance, 1995). In their review of research in gender and mathematics, Barnes and Horne (1996) noted that gender differences in participation became more evident in senior grades, noting that "boys outnumber girls in these (high level secondary) courses by almost two to one" (p. 55).

The evidence in the literature suggests that it is difficult to attribute the lack of participation by girls compared to boys to inferior performance. The nature and extent of gender differences in mathematical performance remains a controversial topic, because there are many confounding variables and because a variety of testing procedures are used as measures of performance. For example, Leeson (1995) found that boys tended to perform better on topic areas including rates, percentage and estimation while girls achieved better in number patterns, reflection and identifying geometrical shapes within a larger picture. Malone and Miller (1993) noted that there were either no gender differences favouring girls when students' skills in mathematical communication were assessed. Leder and Taylor (1995) found differences in a timed mathematics competition that favoured boys. Gallagher and De Lisi (1994) conducted structured interviews with students to determine the different solution strategies used on the Scholastic Aptitude Test. They found that girls were more likely to use conventional strategies, which were correlated with negative attitudes towards mathematics. Gallagher and De Lisi (1994) considered that their findings help to explain patterns of gender differences on scholastic aptitude test in mathematics (SAT-M) problems among high-ability students, in which girls outperform boys on conventional problems and boys outperform girls on unconventional problems. Barnes and Horne (1996) concluded from their review that "males tended to do better on traditional tests" (p. 60). Clearly, mathematical performance varies, with girls excelling on some tasks and boys doing better on others.

The reported gender differences in attitude towards mathematics influenced some researchers to study some affective variables as mediators of gender differences in mathematics achievement (Casey et al, 2001). However, little consensus existed among researchers regarding the influence of affective variables on gender and mathematics achievement. For example, some studies reported statistically significant effects of affective variables on the learning of mathematics (Ma and Kishor, 1997; Ho, et al, 2000; Casey et al, 2001), while others indicated no relationship between attitude variables and mathematics achievement (Papanastatsiou, 2000). Even among those studies that found a significant relationship, there was still controversy regarding the educational implications of the results. For example, some researchers concluded that although statistically significant, the mean effect size for the relationship between attitudes towards mathematics and achievement in mathematics was not strong enough to have useful implications for educational practice (Ma and Kishor, 1997). On the other hand, some researchers (Hyde et al, 1990; Norton and Rennie, 1998) have cautioned against dismissing the effects of affective variables on longer term learning outcomes, despite the finding that most of the gender differences in mathematics were small. One of the explanations for the inconsistent findings regarding the relationship between attitude and mathematics achievement, was that such a relationship existed only with respect to particular mathematics content areas (Casey et al, 1997; Ma, 1999) and for specific affective variables (Ho et al, 2000).

However, confidence in learning mathematics, or the degree to which a person feels certain of his/her ability to do well in mathematics, has consistently emerged as an important component of gender-related differences (Vermeer et al, 2000; Casey et al, 2001). Generally confidence in mathematics has been associated with mathematics achievement (Ryan and Pintrich, 1997), with correlation coefficients ranging from 0.3 to 0.4 (Hart, 1989; Newman, 1990; Ryan and Pintrich, 1997). For example, Ryan and Pintrich (1997) showed that students who perceived themselves as cognitively competent were less likely to avoid seeking help, whereas, students who were unsure of themselves were more likely to feel threatened when asking their peers for help and more likely to avoid seeking help. Hart (1989) found that the mean for public teacher-student interaction was higher for high confidence students than the mean for low confidence students.

Ryan and Pintrich (1997) explained that students with high confidence in mathematics do not attribute their need for help to lack of ability and thus are more likely to seek help when they need it (Ryan and Pintrich, 1997). Hart (1989) further found that high confidence students were engaged in mathematics a greater percentage of the time than were low confidence students.

Studies that have compared gender differences in mathematics self confidence have mostly reported that girls had lower self-confidence in mathematics than boys (Case et al, 1997); Norton and Rennie, 1998). In some case, boys were more confident than girls even when their mathematics achievement was similar to that of girls (Casey et al, 1997). Vermeer et al (2000) have further shown that the gender differences in self confidence were more marked for application problems than computation problems, with girls showing significantly lower confidence for application problems.

Despite such consistent findings of girls’ low confidence in mathematics, studies of classroom environment have shown that the girls’ confidence in mathematics improved greatly in classes which actively involved girls in the learning of mathematics (Rennie and Parker, 1997; Boaler, 1997, 2000).

The Selected Attitudinal Variables

There are a variety of variables that can directly influence the attitude of an individual. The attitudinal variables considered here are those used in this study.

Influence of Teachers in Mathematics

Literature on the teaching and learning of mathematics shows that teachers’ beliefs and actions determine or have an effect on students’ actions in the classroom and their learning outcomes (Koehler and Sirows, 1992). Teachers attitude towards girls’ and boys’ work has been studied by Spear (1934) who found that work attributed to boys were rated highly by teachers than identical work attributed to girls. The only aspect of work supposedly from girls’ that was rated more highly by teachers was “neatness” (Spear, 1989; Fennema and et al, 1990).

According to Sadker et al (1991), boys may receive more complex type of questions to answer, be asked to participate in demonstrations and use equipments more than their female counterparts.

In their effort to discourage female students from doing mathematics, teachers ridicule them when they fail to give correct answers to questions posed, instead of encouraging them. Girls are less likely to take part in whole - class or small group interactions (Kahle and Mecce, 1994). When boys give wrong answers in class, teachers challenge them to find the correct answers whiles girls get sympathy (Aiper, 1993). This attitude towards girls, normally make girls shy away from the course.

Influence of Parents in Mathematics

The development of the child’s basic personality structure is largely shaped by social expectations especially those of their parents. According to Gilbert (1986), the influence and social - economic status of parents could contribute to the emergence of gender differences.

Parents consider girls as household bound and therefore should device themselves to studies that are relevant to their future roles as wives and mothers (APU, 1981; FEMSA, 1997).

Even in the home as they grow, certain practices of parents tend to give boys the opportunity to develop the right cognition for the study of mathematics later in school. For instance, it had been suggested by Maccoby and Jackling (1974) that among child rearing practices that might influence mathematical attainment was the fact that whereas girls are given dolls and “domestic” toys, boys are given significantly more scientific and constructional toys, which encourages the development of spatial concepts and problem solving capabilities.

Students Perceived Usefulness of Mathematics

When females enter high school, they take fewer and less advanced mathematics courses self - selecting out their level mathematics classes (Hanson, 1992). Because males enroll in more mathematics classes, they dominate professions that require higher mathematics knowledge (Hanson, 1992). These actions on the part of students can be attributed to their perceived usefulness of the subject matter of mathematics. Many females do not see mathematics as useful in their future life after school, as they generally see marriage. From the outcome of APU (1981) and FEMSA (1997) studies, it is clear that girls believe mathematics is difficult and relatively unimportant. In addition, female students report less confidence in their mathematical abilities than male counterparts (Cohen and Kosler, 1991: Hanson 1992).

The girls’ attitudes are reinforced by harassment from boys who do not regard girls as being capable of engaging in difficult learning tasks such as mathematics and mathematics related subjects. There is the belief that boys regard girl who are good in mathematics as somehow “abnormal” and not good prospects for marriage (FEMSA, 1991).

Influence of Peers

A study by a group of social scientist at the Oxford University on how individuals are led to change their attitude, particularly focusing on the influence of the peer group is through a process known as persuasion which is neither inherently good nor bad.

Boswell (1979) asserted that peer pressure is very powerful force in the formation of stereotype self - concept. Boswell (1979) believes that students’ attitude is influence by the peer group which they associate with.

Studies Related To Attitude towards Mathematics

Saha (2007) conducted a study Gender, Attitude to Mathematics, cognitive style and Achievement in Mathematics. It was found that all the three contributes to statistically significant difference in achievement in mathematics. Thomas (2006) conducted a study to determine the Attitude towards Mathematics and achievement by combining co-operative learning strategies with instruction delivered using an Integrated Learning System (ILS). Sixty five fifth grade students were randomly divided in two groups, co-operative and individual. Result revealed that students using on ILS for mathematics instruction performed better on standardised tests and were more positive towards math and they worked in co-operative groups than when they worked on the same individually. Xin Ma and Jianymin (2004) conducted a study to determine the casual ordering between Attitude towards Mathematics and achievement in mathematics of secondary school students. Results showed the achievement demonstrated casual predominance over attitude across the entire secondary school. Gender difference in this casual relationship was not found but elite status in mathematics moderated this casual relationship.

Summary

From the literature reviewed so far, it appears that there is difference in the attitude of boys and girls towards mathematics. According to Aiken (1976) and Marope (1992), the attitude of boys towards mathematics appears to be more positive than that of girls.

CHAPTER THREE METHODOLOGY

Overview

This chapter describes the methods and procedures that were followed by the researchers in the collection of the data. It begins with research design and continues with population, sample and sampling procedure, research instrument, validity of the instrument, data collection procedure and finally ends with mode of data analysis.

Research Design

The research design used was a descriptive sample survey. The study is to design to describe gender differences in the attitude towards the study of mathematics. Descriptive statistics is concerned with describing collection of persons; places and things with respect their characteristics. One may describe a collection of persons, for example, by stating how many are males or females, how many fall into various age categories, what the average level of education is and so forth. According to Ary, Jacob and Razerses (1990), a descriptive research studies are designed to obtain information regarding the current status of a phenomenon. They are aimed at determining the nature of situation as it exists at the time of study. One common feature of descriptive studies is finding out attitudes and opinions of individuals, organization, events or procedures. It was on these bases that descriptive research design was used.

Population and Sample

The schools were selected through simple random sampling technique. All the 13 Senior High Schools in the Cape Coast metropolis were classified as single sex males, single sex female and mixed schools and from each category one school was randomly selected through simple random sampling. Out of the 13 Senior High Schools in the Cape Coast metropolis, 5 were single sex males, 2 were single sex females and 6 were mixed schools. After the sampling exercise, the following schools were selected for the research; Wesley Girls' High School, Saint Augustine's College, and University of Ghana High School (Worker’s College). All the three selected Senior High Schools were public schools.

The total number of SHS 3 students in the selected schools was 1,037. The following are the breakdown; 483 students from Wesley Girls' High School, 427 students from Saint Augustine's College and 127 from University of Ghana High School (Worker’s College).

A simple random sampling technique was employed in selecting forty students from the three schools. In all one hundred and twenty students were selected for the study. At University of Ghana High School (Worker’s College), which is a mixed school, 25 girls and 15 boys were selected.

The study focused on SHS 3 students on the assumption that SHS 3 students have had some considerable experience in mathematics study and that some useful information could be obtained from them. The SHS 1 students were new in the school, that is, they had just been orientated into the school, whiles the SHS 4 were busily preparing for their final examinations. The SHS 2 students were also in school but considering experience in mathematics the SHS 3 were selected for the study.

Research Instrument

The research instrument was a questionnaire. The items were constructed using a Lickert format scale of five alternatives for the responses, strongly disagree, disagree, undecided, agree and strongly agree.

The questionnaire consisted of 24 items which consisted of four attitudinal variables namely;

1. Influence of teachers in mathematics.
2. Influence of parents in mathematics
3. Students perceived usefulness of mathematics
4. Peer influence

Table 1: Distribution of items in the students’ questionnaire.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Table 1 shows the distributions of the items in the questionnaire for the four altitudinal variables. Each variable has six items with three positively worded and the other three negatively worded.

Validity of the Research Instrument

The questionnaire was given to the supervisor who made some valid suggestions. All suggestions were incorporated in the content of the instrument.

Data Collection Procedure

Research visit were made to the three selected schools to seek permission to collect the data. Introductory letters which were obtained from the Department of Science and Mathematics Education and signed by the supervisor were taken to the schools heads asking for permission to undertake the study in the school. Two visits were made to each school. The first visits were made on April 5, 2011 to all the three selected schools.

The second visit was done on different dates for the three selected schools for which the questionnaire was administered. The administration of the questionnaire was done on the following dates in the three selected schools. Saint Augustine's College was done on April 6, 2011, University of Ghana High School (Worker’s Collage) on April 12, 2011 and Wesley Girls' High School on April 13, 2011.

The rational for the exercise was explained after which the selected students responded to the questionnaire privately without consulting each other, as the researchers were in the classroom with the class teacher. There was 100% return rate.

Mode of Data Collection

The items were coded using a five - point scale depending on whether the questions were positively or negatively worded.

The positive items were coded as follows: Strongly Agree (SA) = 5, Agree (A) = 4, Undecided (U) = 3, Disagree (D) = 2 and Strongly Disagree (SD) = 1. The negative items were coded as follows: Strongly Agree (SA) = 1, Agree (A) = 2, Undecided (U) = 3, Disagree (D) = 4 and Strongly Disagree (SD) = 5.

The responses were then put into frequencies and converted into percentages.

CHAPTER FOUR RESULTS, FINDINGS AND DISCUSSION

Overview

The chapter focuses on the analysis of data, results and findings of the study. Percentages of the students’ positive responses were collated and comparisons made among the selected schools and summary of the findings have been given.

Preliminary Analysis

The study sampled 40 students each from Wesley Girls' High School, Saint Augustine's College, and University of Ghana High School (Worker’s Collage). Out of a total of 120 students used, 33.3% were in single sex -males school, 33.3% were in single sex -female school, 12.5% boys in the mixed school and 20.8% girls in the mixed school.

Table 2: Age Distribution of Students in the Selected Schools

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Table 2 shows the age distribution of the students in the three schools. It was observed that the majority of the students were between 16 - 18 years forming 70.8% of the students. 1.7% of the students were between 12 - 15 years and 27.5% of the students sampled were 19 years and above.

Table 3: Sex distribution of the students

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Table 3 shows that out of a total number of 120 students, 55 were males representing 45.8% and 65 were females representing 54.2%. This is so because relatively the percentages of female students in the mixed schools were more than that of their male counterpart.

Responses to Questionnaire

Percentages of students’ positive, negative and neutral responses to the four attitudinal variables had been calculated and presented in table 4. The percentages of students’ responses to the questionnaire were determined for each attitudinal variable. The frequency of students who responded positively was found as against those who responded negatively and neutral to the four attitudinal variables. The number of students with positive responses was then converted to percentage

Table 4: Percentages of Students’ Positive, Negative and Neutral Responses to the Attitudinal Variables.

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Table 4 shows students’ positive, negative and neutral responses to the four attitudinal variables. It can be inferred from table 4 that student attitude towards the study of mathematics are highly and positively influenced by parents. This confirms the fact that the environment created by parents in the home can directly influenced the attitude of their wards in the study of mathematics. Table 4 also shows that the next major influence on attitude is of the mathematics teacher, which 77.1% of the students, responded positively to the influence of the mathematics teacher. The teachers’ commitment and kind of learning atmosphere he or she creates appears to influence students’ attitude towards the study of mathematics.

Students’ perceived usefulness of mathematics also seems to be another crucial determinant of their attitude towards the study of mathematics. From Table 4 the percentage of students who responded to that attitudinal variable was 72.5%. The students’ perceived usefulness of mathematics determines to some extent the attitude developed towards the study of mathematics. It can be argued that students with perceived usefulness of mathematics will have positive attitudes towards the study of mathematics and vice versa.

The influence of peer group is also another variable worth considering since it may also determine, to some extent, students attitude towards the study of mathematics. From Table 4, 65.4% of the students responded positively to the influence of peer group.

Comparisons of Students’ Positive Responses in the Three Selected Schools

There has been renewed interest in the potential of single sex environment to cater more effectively for the needs of girls (Milligan and Thomson, 1992). Since growing body establishing the importance of affective states in learning mathematics, it is worthwhile to compare the attitudes of boys and girls in single sex and mixed schools. The result and findings have been presented in Table 5.

Table 5: Percentages of Students’ Positive Responses to the Attitudinal Variables in the Selected Schools.

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Findings and Discussions

The findings presented in Table 5 are the responses of students to the attitudinal variables in the selected schools.

Influence of the Mathematics Teacher

From Table 5, 73.3% representing 11 out of the 15 boys in mixed school as against 70.0% representing 18 out of the 25 girls in the mixed school responded positively on the influence of the mathematics teacher. It appears boys are influence more by their teachers in mixed school than girls in the study of mathematics. This indicates that the learning environment in class favours boys than girls in the mixed school. This is consistent with Kaino, (1988) and Austey, (1997) findings.

Table 5 seems to indicate that boys in single sex male school have higher positive attitude towards mathematics as result of influence of teachers in mathematics than the girls in single sex female school. The percentage of boys in the single sex male school was 85.0% representing 34 out of 40 boys in the single sex male school as against 75.0% representing 30 out of 40 girls in the single sex female school.

Table 5 again appears that percentage of boys in the single sex male school on the influence of teachers in mathematics is 85.0% representing 34 out of the 40 boys in the single sex male school and girls in mixed school were 70.0% representing 18 out of the 25 girls in the mixed school. It appears that the boys in the single sex male school have a higher positive attitude towards mathematics on the influence of teachers in mathematics than the girls in the mixed school.

Table 5 appears that girls in single sex female school with a percentage of 75.0% representing 30 out of the 40 girls in the single sex female school had positive attitude towards mathematics than boys in the mixed school with a percentage of 73.3% representing 11 out of the 15 boys in the mixed school . This seems that the study environment in mixed school does not favour boys.

Table 5 also appears that all boys selected for the study with a percentage of 81.8% representing 45 out of the 55 boys in all the three selected schools had positive attitude towards mathematics than all the girls in the three selected schools with a percentage of 73.1% representing 48 out of the 65 girls in the three selected schools.

Influence of Parents

Table 5 appears that 76.7% representing 12 out of the 15 boys in mixed school believed that parental influence in mathematics was positive whiles 86.7% representing 22 out of the 25 girls in mixed school think so. This appears that girls have positive attitude towards mathematics as a result of parental influence than boys in mixed school.

Again, girls in single sex female school had positive attitude towards the attitudinal variable, than boys in single sex male school. The percentage of boys in single sex male school was 76.7% representing 31 out of the 40 boys in single sex male school and that of girls in single sex female school was 87.1% representing 35 out of the 40 girls in single sex female school. This appears that girls in the single sex female school had positive attitude towards mathematics in terms of parental influence in the study of mathematics.

Table 5 appears that, 76.7% representing 12 out of the 15 boys in mixed school had positive attitude towards mathematics based on parental influence with girls in single sex female school also having 87.1% representing 35 out of the 40 girls in single sex female. This appears that girls in single sex female have positive attitude towards mathematics than boys in the mixed school on parental influence.

Table 5 further appears that, 76.7% representing 31 out of the 40 boys in single sex male school had positive attitude toward mathematics compared to 86.7% representing 22 out of the 25 girls in the mixed school with positive attitude towards mathematics on parental influence. This suggests that girls in mixed school had positive attitude towards mathematics based on parental influence than boys in the single sex school.

Table 5 also appears that all boys selected for the study with a percentage of 76.7% representing 42 out of the 55 boys in all the three selected schools had positive attitude towards mathematics and all the girls in the three selected schools with a percentage of 87.0% representing 57 out of the 65 girls in the three selected schools. This appears that the girls have positive attitude towards the study of mathematics than boys on the parental influence.

Perceived Usefulness of Mathematics

From Table 5, 76.7% representing 12 out of the 15 boys in mixed school believed that mathematics is useful whiles 74.0% representing 19 out of the 25 girls in mixed school believed mathematic is useful. This appears that boys in mixed school have positive attitude on the usefulness of mathematics than girls in the mixed school.

Table 5 appears that 73.3% representing 29 out of 40 girls in single sex female school have positive attitude towards mathematics than 69.2% representing 28 out of the 40 boys in single sex male school based on the perceived usefulness of mathematics.

Table 5 also shows that 69.2% representing 28 out of 40 boys in single sex male school and 74.0% representing 19 out of the 25 girls in the mixed school perceived mathematics as useful. This appears that girls in the mixed school perceived mathematics useful than boys in the single sex male school.

Table 5 further appears that comparison in attitude towards mathematics made between boys in mixed school and girls in single sex female school seems that 76.7% representing 12 out of the 15 boys in mixed school as against 73.3% representing 29 out of the 40 girls in single sex female school perceived mathematics as useful. This appears that boys in mixed school perceive mathematics useful than girls in single sex female school.

Table 5 also appears that all boys selected for the study with a percentage of 76.7% representing 42 out of the 55 boys in all the three selected schools had positive attitude towards mathematics and all the girls in the three selected schools with a percentage of 87.0% representing 57 out of the 65 girls in the three selected schools. This appears that the girls have positive attitude towards the study of mathematics than boys on the parental influence.

Table 5 also appears that all boys selected for the study with a percentage of 71.2% representing 39 out of the 55 boys in all the three selected schools had positive attitude towards mathematics and all the girls in the three selected schools with a percentage of 73.6% representing 57 out of the 65 girls in the three selected schools. This appears that the girls have positive attitude towards the study of mathematics than boys on the perceived usefulness of mathematics.

Peer Influence

Considering the influence of peers, it appears from Table 5 that 66.0% representing 17 out of the 25 girls in the mixed school are influenced by peer than the 55.6% representing 8 out of the 15 boys in mixed school. It appears girls show positive attitude on this attitudinal variable.

Again, girls in single sex female school had positive attitude towards the attitudinal variable than boys in single sex male school. The percentage of boys in single sex male school was 61.3% representing 25 out of the 40 boys in the single sex male school and that of girls in single sex female school was 72.9% representing 29 out of the 40 girls in single sex female. This appears that girls in the single sex school had positive attitude towards mathematics in terms of peer influence in the study of mathematics.

Table 5 again appears that percentage of boys in the mixed school on the influence of peers in mathematics is 55.6% representing 8 out of the 15 boys in the mixed school and girls in single sex female school were 72.9% representing 29 out of the 40 girls in single sex female school. This appears that the girls in the single sex female school have a positive attitude towards mathematics on the influence of peers in mathematics than boys in the mixed school.

Table 5 further appears that, 61.3% representing 25 out of the 40 boys in single sex male school had positive attitude toward mathematics compared to 66.0% representing 17 out of 25 girls in the mixed school with positive attitude towards peer influence in the study of mathematics. This appears that girls in mixed school had positive attitude towards mathematics based on peer influence than boys in the single sex male school.

Table 5 also appears that all boys selected for the study with a percentage of 59.7% representing 33 out of the 55 boys in all the three selected schools had positive attitude towards mathematics and all the girls in the three selected schools with a percentage of 70.3% representing 46 out of the 65 girls in the three selected schools.

Summary of the Findings

Considering the influence of the mathematics teacher, it seems that boys have positive attitude towards mathematics than girls.

On the influence of the parents, it appears that the girls have positive attitude towards the study of mathematics than boys.

On the perceived usefulness of mathematics, it appears that the girls have positive attitude towards the study of mathematics than boys

Lastly, on the influence of peers, it appears that the girls have positive attitude towards the study of mathematics than boys on the influence of peers.

CHAPTER FIVE SUMMARY, CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Overview

The chapter presents the summary of the study, conclusions and recommendations.

Summary of the Study

The topic for the study was “Sex difference in attitude towards the study of mathematics: A case study of some selected schools in the Cape Coast metropolis”.

The target population was all Senior High School form three students. Schools within the Cape Coast metropolis form the accessible population. However, three schools in the metropolis were randomly selected for the study. These are; Wesley Girls' High School which is single sex female, Saint Augustine's College which is single sex male school, and University of Ghana High School (Worker’s Collage) which is a mixed school. A sample of 120 students; 40 from each school were selected for the study.

Collection of data was through administering of questionnaire made up of closed - ended questions with responses based on four attitudinal variables. The preparation of the questionnaire was done using the Lickert scale format.

Based on the research finding, conclusions and recommendations were made.

Conclusion

The following conclusions were drawn from the analysis of the data collected.

The analysis shows that the girls in the single sex female school seemed to have positive attitude towards mathematics than boys in the mixed schools. This does not conform to the assertion by Milligan and Thomson (1992) that “Boys attitude towards mathematics in the coeducational school is significantly more positive than the attitude of girls in single sex female schools”

The analysis shows that the girls in the mixed schools seemed to have positive attitude towards mathematics than boys in single sex school. This supports Sweetman (1991) assertion that female students attitude towards mathematics is significantly more positive than the attitude of male students.

Therefore, it can be concluded from the research that that girls seemed to have higher positive attitude towards mathematics than boys.

Recommendations

The following recommendations have been proposed for further studies.

Recommendations for Further Studies

The findings of this research cannot be taken to be conclusive without studies or analysis of some other variables that could influence sex differences. Factors such as students’ difficulties and confidence in learning mathematics, students’ participation in mathematics, enjoyment and motivation also exert some amount of influence on students’ attitude towards mathematics. Also mathematics teachers view on students’ attitude in learning mathematics, students performance in the subject as well as students interaction and career prospects involving mathematics in class could provide a comprehensive analysis for both teachers and students views.

Since the research covered only a limited number of schools in the Cape Coast metropolis in the Central Region of Ghana, it is the wish of researchers if it could be extended to cover more schools. Though the results were not conclusive, the study can aid coordinate national effort at improving factors that influence students to develop positive attitude towards the study of mathematics.

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APPENDIX

UNIVERSITY OF CAPE COAST

DEPARTMENT OF SCIENCE AND MATHEMATICS EDUCATION

QUESTIONNAIRE ON ATTITUDE OF STUDENTS TOWARDS THE STUDY OF MATHEMATICS

This questionnaire is part of the research work aimed at finding out the attitude of boys and girls towards the study of mathematics in some selected Senior High Schools in the Cape Coast metropolis.

Information solicited would primarily be used for academic purposes.

Respondents are also assured of maximum confidentiality. Thank you for advance cooperation.

INSTRUCTIONS

Please read each item carefully and choose the appropriate responds by ticking [√] the appropriate box corresponding to the response chosen or specify where applicable.

The following are the interpretation of the alternatives provided:

(SD = Strongly Disagree, D = Disagree, U = Undecided, A = Agree, SA = Strongly Agree)

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Details

Pages
66
Year
2017
ISBN (Book)
9783668553385
File size
538 KB
Language
English
Catalog Number
v375186
Institution / College
University of Cape Coast
Grade
Bachelor's Degree
Tags
difference attitude students towards study mathematics

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Title: Sex Difference in the Attitude of Students Towards the Study of Mathematics