Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Preschool Children's Early Mathematics Achievement Based on Gender and Ethnicity

Academic journal article Asian Social Science

Preschool Children's Early Mathematics Achievement Based on Gender and Ethnicity

Article excerpt


Achievements in Mathematics are said to be influenced by several factors including gender and ethnicity. The purpose of this study was to determine the overall early mathematics achievements of preschool children and whether there were significant differences in those achievements based on gender and ethnicity. The instrument used in this research was the Early Mathematics Achievement Test(EMAT) which was adapted from two preschool mathematics modules and the National Standard Preschool Curriculum Malaysia. The research sample consisted of 138 preschool children from six Ministry of Education preschools in Malaysia stratified according to gender and ethnicity. The data was analyzed descriptively and inferentially. The t-test and ANOVA were used to test gender and ethnic differences in the mathematics achievements. The findings showed that the level of preschool children's early mathematics achievements was above average. There were no significant differences in their mathematics achievement based on gender. However, there were significant differences in their early mathematics achievement based on ethnicity. We therefore argue that ethnicity is a factor that can probably affect preschool children's early mathematics achievement. The role of gender in mathematics achievement needs to be further examined in future studies to clarify the inconclusive findings of past research.

Keywords: mathematics achievement, gender, ethnicity

1. Introduction

The sixth challenge of Vision 2020in Malaysia is the development of a scientific and progressive society, which integrates science and technology in teaching and learning(The Way Forward 1991) Undeniably, achievement in the field of science and mathematics is a very important national agenda which affects all levels of education starting from preschool till the tertiary level. In 2003, the implementation of teaching science and mathematics in the English language was carried out with focus on students in Standard One and Forms One and Six. To this end, basic mathematics proficiency needs to be strengthened since the preschool level is the foundation for future performance. If early mathematics skills can be enhanced, children will be better prepared to face the challenges of learning mathematics during later school years and subsequently at higher institutions of learning. At present, preschool education is an important phase in Malaysia's education system with billions of ringgit invested in the private and public sectors to ensure quality and equity in the delivery of preschool services ( LAPPPM 2013-2025)

The development of mathematics is always parallel with the development of human civilization itself (Sabri et al. 2006). According to Dorfler (2003), mathematics is highly relevant to the demands of daily living. Mathematics is considered a form of art and beauty as well as an effective communication tool. In this era of globalization, the world is dominated by science and technology with attention on strong mastery of mathematics. The National Standard Preschool Curriculum Malaysia (2012) devotes much attention to early mathematics, particularly elements such as classification, seriation, one-to-one correspondence and computation.

The poor performance of children in mathematics is highly obvious as the statistics show that more than 100,000 primary school students in Malaysia are currently unable to master the skills of reading, writing and mathematics (Pelan Pendidikan 2000-2013). Lyon et al. (2001) found that students with poor academic achievements in their foundation years will struggle to acquire higher mathematical skills in later years.

However, this failure can be overcome if children are able to associate mathematics with their daily lives. According to Baroody (2000), preschool children need to develop a variety of relevant mathematical concepts. They need to learn to give reasons and communicate using mathematics. They need to be exposed to early experiences, situations and problems associated with numbers. …

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