The origins of the gender gap in math. Evidences of a study in the primary school in the Swiss canton of Ticino.

Zanolla, Giovanna (2017) The origins of the gender gap in math. Evidences of a study in the primary school in the Swiss canton of Ticino. In: Book of abstracts of the Gender & Education Conference Generative feminism(s): working across/within/through borders, 21.06.2017-23.06.2017, Middlesex University London.

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Abstract

This work analyzes the gender gap in math results of an entire cohort of students attending the fifth grade of the primary school in Ticino. Three evaluation contexts are considered: the mark assigned by the teacher at the end of the school year, the score obtained in a standardized test in mathematics and the comprehensive evaluation provided by teacher at the end of the first quadrimester. Multivariate analysis allows to conclude that the score in the standardized test is the most important predictor of the mark in mathematics but, all things (test score, conduct mark, social origin and nationality) being equal, males are more likely to achieve a significantly better mark. The analysis of evaluations leads to the conclusion that males show a more active and participative behavior, while females show higher conformity to school rules, but appear less involved and more insecure. When pupils exhibit the same level of ability in the standardized test and achieve the same conduct mark, boys obtain a better mark in math probably because they are more able to make their skill visible. Females, which according to several studies are more prone to experience anxiety and stress in mathematics and suffer the stereotype threat according to which they are less skilled than males, are probably penalized by their insecurity. This work aims to be the starting point of a qualitative study focused on the way teachers conceive of the evaluation. To shed more light on the hidden curriculum required by the school and to better understand the criteria on which the assessment is based could be of help in the promotion of equal achievement and in the identification and transmission of transversal skills which can be useful both in school and in the labor market for a full realization of individual potential.

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