Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

Sex Differences in Mathematics Performance among Senior High Students in Ghana

Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

Sex Differences in Mathematics Performance among Senior High Students in Ghana

Article excerpt

This study explored sex differences in mathematics performance of students in the final year of high school and changes in these differences over a 3-year period in Ghana. A convenience sample of 182 students, 109 boys and 72 girls in three high schools in Ghana was used. Mathematics performance was assessed using their classroom marks in the first and third year. The results revealed that there was a significant difference between mathematics performance between boys and girls. These findings, consistent with previous Western studies, are discussed and educational implications of the findings suggested.


Over the last decades, psychologists have grappled with the nature and the origin of sex differences in behaviour and cognition. Research on sex differences, its causes and consequences is not only of academic interest, but concerns general academic policy. Sex differences in mathematics performance and ability remain a concern as scientists seek to address the underrepresentation of women at the highest levels of mathematics, the physical sciences, and engineering (Halpern, et al., 2007). Stereotypes that girls and women lack mathematical ability persist and are widely held by parents and teachers (Frome & Eccles, 1998).

Mathematics, as a tool for understanding and application of science and technology, plays an important role of a precusor and harbinger to the much needed technological and of course national development, which has become an imperative in the developing nations of the world. The choice of this topic is predicated on the current world trend and research emphasis on gender issues following the millennium declaration of September 2000 (United Nations, 2000) which has as its goal, the promotion of gender equity, the empowerment of women and the elimination of gender inequality in basic and secondary education by 2005 and at all levels by 2015. In realization of the significant role of mathematics to nation building, the Ghanaian government made the subject compulsory at the basic and secondary levels. This was aimed at ensuring the inculcation of mathematics literacy and the associated equipment with logical and abstract thinking needed for living, problem solving and educational furtherance. For full realization of this laudable objective of mathematics education, subject mastery and demonstrated achievement should be evenly distributed across gender. Unfortunately, gender inequality in education has remained a perennial problem of global scope (Bordo, 2001; UNESCO, 2003; Reid, 2003).

Several research studies have shown that gender differences in mathematics learning are not clear during the elementary school years (Hyde & Geiringer, 1975; Mann, Sasanuma , Sakuma, & Masaki, 1990), but girls begin to fall behind boys during the interm ediate school years, and they fall further behind during the high school years (Fennema, 1974, 1980; Leder, 1985).

Kimball (1989) cited many studies showing that boys in high school generally achieved higher scores than girls on standardized tests. Studies of gender differences in mathematics achievement (Hedges & Nowell, 1995; Peterson & Fennema, 1985; Randhawa, 1994) found that, in general, males outperformed females in mathematics during the high school years. Other studies (Fox, Brody, & Tobin, 1980) emphasized high mathematics achievement being dominated by males. Leder (1992) has also reported the existence of gender differences in science subjects, in general, as well as in mathematics

The evidence reported so far indicates that males appear to do better than females in mathematics performance; however, recent studies have challenged this trend by showing that this gap has declined (Barker, 1997; Hyde, Fennema, & Lamon, 1990; Knodel, 1997). Catsambus (1994) believes that it persists for some race and ethnic groups, and among high-performing students who may constitute a nation's mathematics talent pool. …

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