Gender Differences in Perception of Effectiveness of Using Statistical Software in Learning Statistics

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

In 1973, Lucy W. Sells identified mathematics as the "critical filter" that prohibits many women from entering the ranks of higher paying, prestigious occupations, and since the publication of that seminal work there has been a great emphasis upon gender differences in mathematical performance.

Studies of gender differences in mathematics performance indicate that females "showed a slight superiority in computation in elementary school and middle school. There were no gender differences in problem solving in elementary or middle school; differences favoring men emerge in high school and college" (Hyde, Fennama & Lamon, 1990). Leo (1999) states that females lag behind males in math and science test scores. Enzensberger (1999) goes so far as to state "...[mathematical ability] is established genetically in the human brain." These conflicting data are rather typical of the disagreement in literature regarding the evidence for a male advantage in math performance (Casey, Nuttall & Pezaris, 1997). They do state that there is a gender difference favoring males among high-ability students at measured by the Mathematics Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT-M), and this has major implications for women's entrance into math-science fields.

There have been fewer studies concerning gender difference in the use and acceptance of computers. Dambrot, et al (1985) states that "there is every reason to believe that people in general and women in particular who have had problems with mathematics will find working with computers even more difficult and threatening". A study by Igbaria and Parasuraman (1989) indicates that there is a moderate connection between math anxiety and computer anxiety with managers

OVERVIEW OF CURRICULUM CONSIDERATIONS

Virtually all universities and colleges require students to take one or more statistics courses in many different majors, e.g., education, psychology, business, etc., for the non-specialist, and most Schools of Business require one or more courses in computer literacy. This paper focuses on whether there are gender differences in the perception of how helpful a statistical software package (MINITAB) is in learning statistical procedures for those non-specialists who are majoring in a field within business. The traditional method currently used in teaching statistics is widely viewed as being ineffective (Cobb, 1993; Mosteller, 1988).

The recommendations of the American Statistical Association and the Mathematical Association of America (ASA/MAA, 1996) Committee on Undergraduate Statistics should be integrated into the methodology utilized for teaching statistical courses. These recommendations are to teach statistical thinking; to emphasize more data and concepts, less theory and fewer recipes; and, to foster active learning. There are several approaches for teaching statistics to the non-specialists: (1) the use of manual calculations by using a hand-held calculator, (2) the use of a computer software package, and (3) a combination using both the manual and computer software package. A computer software package, such as MINITAB, could be selected which would enhance the student's ability to visualize and explore basic statistical concepts. MINITAB provides the means to generate the output and then allows the student to become statistical thinkers.

Many students who enroll in the statistics courses do so without sufficient computer literacy skills, and, therefore, spend their time attempting to master those requisite computer skills, ultimately neglecting the in-dept understanding of the statistics which was the objective of the course. Students appear to be more interested in acquiring computer skills than mathematical skills, probably because it is much more fashionable to discuss computers than statistics, and, very importantly, students are aware that computer literacy skills are advertised as a prerequisite for most jobs whereas they seldom find mathematical competencies advertised as a prerequisite for jobs. …