Gender differences in mathematics performance among secondary school students in Bureti Sub-County, Kericho County Kenya
Mutai, Chebet Catherine
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In all developing countries, mathematics education is being called upon to play an even more important role for the future. For an all round contribution, there is need to involve both men and women. This study focused on the gender differences in performance in mathematics among form three secondary school students in Bureti Sub-County. It focused on the influence of students perception, parental expectations, teachers’ characteristics and perceptions and school environment on their learning of mathematics. The objectives of this study were: (a) to determine the gender differences in achievement in mathematics in secondary schools (b) to establish gender-related factors that influence performance in mathematics (c) to establish the relationship between students career aspiration and their attitude towards mathematics in learning (d) to establish teachers’ perceptions about boys’ and girls’ ability to grasp mathematics concepts (e) to establish best practices adopted by teachers to motivate and encourage boys and girls towards improvement of mathematics performance in secondary schools. The study was a cross-sectional descriptive survey employing correlation methods to investigate gender differences in Mathematics achievement levels of girls and boys. A total of 430 students responded to a five-item, mathematics Achievement Test (MAT) comprising statistics and probability questions. Descriptive Survey design was used. Data was collected using Mathematics Teachers Questionnaires (MTQ) for teachers, Mathematics Students Questionnaire (MSQ) for students and Mathematics Students Achievement Test. The target population was mathematics teachers and form three students from selected secondary schools in Bureti Sub-County, Kenya. Stratified sampling technique was used to select eight (8) secondary schools: 2 for boys, 2 for girls and 4 for mixed from 54 secondary schools in Bureti Sub-County, Kenya. The study used a sample of four hundred and thirty (430) form three students from the eight stratified and randomly selected secondary schools. Eighteen mathematics teachers teaching the study classes were purposively sampled. Simple random sampling was used to select one stream from each category where there were more than one stream, otherwise the stream was purposively selected. The instruments were piloted to enhance their validity and reliability. Students did a mathematics test. Data obtained from the study were analyzed using SPSS software. The students also responded to the Attitude Scale. The teachers filled the Mathematics Teachers Questionnaire (MTQ) on the reasons for poor performance of students in Mathematics and their possible solutions. The validity and reliability of the instruments were enhanced by a pilot study and the adoption of some already validated items. A reliability coefficient of at least 0.8 was acceptable for the study. The study revealed the following findings; gender was strongly associated with mathematics achievement (r= 0.9880, p< 0.05). As a result, boys’ schools performed better than girls schools. Boys had a stronger affinity and interest towards mathematics. Teacher and school factors were of little effect on mathematics achievement with respect to gender. The key recommendation was that measures are needed to be taken as early as possible, probably already in primary education, which aim at the suppression of socialization factors known to lead to the establishment of gender differences in mathematics achievement. It would be desirable to implement strategies in the curriculum as well as in the pre and in-service training which would help moderate gender differences in students’ achievement in mathematics.