Effects of mathematics and science student performance in a single-sex learning environment

Wilson, Teri
Major Professor
Richard P. Manatt
Committee Member
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Curriculum and Instruction

Gender differences in mathematics learning continue to attract much research attention. A guarded enthusiasm is growing for single-sex mathematics classes as an intervention strategy designed to redress past inequities and create fairer learning environments for girls. This investigation was undertaken in response to a specific request from an elementary, independent, coeducational day school in Miami, Florida, as an exploratory study to address the gender differences in the participation and achievement of girls in mathematics and science. The purpose of the investigation was to study the effects of mathematics and science student performance in single-sex classes;The participants in the study consisted of all the students enrolled in the school's fifth grade class. The study used a quasi-experimental, single-group (pretest/posttest) design. The following instruments were utilized to measure academic growth and student performance: (1) criterion-referenced mathematics and science examinations (pretest/posttest assessments aligned with the respective state's grade level curriculum), (2) standardized mathematics and science achievement tests, and (3) year-end mathematics and science report card grades. The literature reviewed for this investigation identified numerous attribution variables which influence students' perceptions of their own achievement, benefits, and attitudes toward the study of mathematics and science. A Student Response Inventory was designed to examine gender differences in student opinion data relating to five categories of attribution variables. Performance data were analyzed using t-tests for dependent and independent groups and analyses of covariance (ANCOVA). Student opinion data were examined through tables of response frequencies;The findings support that instructing students in single-sex classrooms for mathematics and science does increase the likelihood of similar performance by both genders. Only two of the analyses indicated statistically significant differences between genders: (1) girls demonstrated stronger academic growth between the administration of the pretest/posttest criterion-referenced examinations in science than the boys and (2) when statistically controlling for previous mathematics and science achievement, the adjusted mean GPA scores for the girls were raised in both mathematics and science and lowered for the boys in both subject areas. Overall, results indicate that single-sex instruction in mathematics and science does tend to benefit students, especially girls.