Gender Equality in Mathematics

Gender Stereotyping in mathematics is the domination of males over females. In an equitable learning environment, women can be the mathematical equals of men and are capable of developing talent, skills and interest should make. Ensuring both females and males are paid same value in every opportunity. 

What is equality and equity?

Fennema (1995) describes three aspects about equality: First one is Equal opportunity; second one is Equal treatment and third one is Equal outcomes by which society can overcome from this gender stereotyping. 

Equal Opportunity: Equal opportunity depends on Access, removing external barriers such as streaming, setting policies & timetable structures and provide equal resources such as computers and calculators. In every field of development both get same value and same scope. 

Equal Treatment: Teacher’s interaction with girls vs. boys should not be different, same attention should be given to both. Avoid gender stereotyped scenarios, materials, and problems. Avoid textbook stereotyping. Avoid specific teaching approaches which have different effects on the attitudes and performance of girls and boys.

Equal Outcomes: Fennema(1995) pointed out that equal access and equal treatment are not sufficient for gender equity. The pursuit of equity also involves a commitment to ‘closing the gap’ in outcomes, whereby outcomes include mathematical achievement, participation, retention and attitudes.

Equitable Practice: Equal access and equal treatment are not sufficient to overcome gender gaps and social injustices in schooling.  A variety of approaches are needed to meet the needs of learners; one single approach won’t do.

Performance Inconsistencies: Therefore, not explained by sex alone. Conditions under which assessment is completed. (e.g. Time on task). Depends on the content of the assessment tasks. (e.g. Focus on language). Nature of mathematical knowledge and skills being tested. (e.g. Technology vs none)

Comparison of Male/Female Maths: In the past, maths was a male dominated domain and few females chose to study math.

Theories of Gender, Equity and Practice: Sociological Gender, Theory Educational Paradigm, Classroom Practice.

Intervention Programs Socialization is main cause of female mathematical deficiencies: Gender-Stereotyped patterns of play, Gender Stereotyping of roles and careers. Lack of opportunity in classroom and Single Sex Classrooms.

Gender Sensitive Curriculum, What effect does classrooms have on gender gap?

Teachers would observe boys’ interest and success with computers as an achievement in mathematics. The behaviour of the dominant males in such classrooms would interfere with others’ learning environment. To prevent this teacher should not be biased to any gender. She/he should make class room equilibrium for all in case of gender. 

Male/Female Perspectives on Maths Jo Boaler, Reclaiming School Mathematics: The Girls Fight Back (1997).  Concepts of success and ability differed between sexes. Boys emphasized speed and accuracy as indicator of success. Girls valued experiences that allowed them to think, develop their own ideas and work as a group. Therefore, males are more likely to succeed in traditional-style classrooms.

Gender Equity in Practice: For equitable learning environment, teachers must use various teaching approaches: Be explicit about the mathematical concepts to be learned – Ensure that both males and females are supported and valued. All students have access to academically challenging mathematics curricula. Students should encourage to develop confidence in their mathematics ability and positive attitudes towards mathematics. With ensuring both male and female valued equally. End of the twentieth century there was a trend towards equality.

Samapika Pradhan

Assistant Professor, Department of Mathematics, Kalinga University

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