Factors influencing women's participation in mathematical disciplines
Pelletier, Denise Mary
Master of Education
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Few high-achieving, university-bound, female high school students are choosing to pursue a mathematics degree at university. Researchers have discussed a wide range of factors that may account for this situation. This thesis is a two-stage mixedmethods research investigation of the factors that influence mathematically-able (above 70% in advanced mathematics courses), university-bound women’s decision to pursue or not pursue a mathematics degree. Students in two Grade 12 advanced level classes in mathematics were surveyed regarding their post secondary career and schooling intentions. The data were analyzed in three different ways: comparing male to female mathematics students generally, comparing men and women who intend to pursue mathematics after high school versus those who do not, comparing women who intend to pursue mathematics as a major to those who do not. Findings from the first stage survey indicated that women and men had chosen to pursue mathematics at university in equally low numbers. Females’ intentions to pursue a particular career were linked to genuine interest whereas males’ reasons were linked to pay as well as genuine interest. Women who were intending to pursue a mathematics degree identified teachers as their person of greatest influence.In the second stage of the study five female students who were intending to pursue mathematics at university and five who were not were selected from the larger group for interviews. Interview data indicated that despite equally strong achievement levels in high school the two groups of women differed greatly in their self-confidence in their mathematical ability and their view of mathematics teachers. Recommendations for further research are discussed.