Teacher gender-role identity and gender attribution of student mathematic ability

Kim Elizabeth Wortel, Pace University


The purpose of this study was to discover if there is a correlation between female teachers' sex-role identities and their attitudes toward boys' and girls' mathematical ability. In addition, I explored the relationship between teachers' own math anxiety and their stereotyping of boys as being better at mathematics. The subjects were 55 female teachers of grades 1 through 4 from the Valley Stream and West Hempstead school districts. Data was gathered through the administration of 3 questionnaires: The Math Anxiety and Math as a Male Domain scale of the Fennema Sherman Mathematics Attitudes Scales, the short form of The Spence-Helmreich Personal Attributes Questionnaire (PAQ), and the Burke and Tully Semantic Differential Scale. In addition there was a Classroom Questionnaire and a Demographic Sheet. In analyzing the data, a gender role score was derived by the method used by Burke and Tully where responses that maximally distinguish maleness from femaleness for the sample itself are discovered and combined into one role score. This was done by performing within subject multiple discriminant analyses on the teachers' responses to three scales of bipolar adjectives. After the analyses were completed, the final group of adjectives were assigned weights. The weighted items were then taken, multiplied by each of their weights, and summed. In this manner each subject obtained one role score based on the specific sample of which they were a member. The results of this study failed to prove the two hypotheses: that those teachers who score high on femininity as measured by the PAQ will be significantly more likely to score higher on the Math as a Male Domain scale than those teachers who did not score high on femininity on the PAQ, and that those teachers whose role identities are more characteristically feminine than masculine will be significantly more likely to score higher on the Math as a Male Domain scale than those teachers whose role is not characteristically feminine. The primary explanation for this was a weakness with the Math as a Male Domain scale, which was of primary importance in both related hypotheses. The distribution of the Math as a Male Domain scores supports the conclusion that the teachers gave "correct" responses to the questions. However, this study found a significant positive correlation between teacher mathematic anxiety and teacher belief that boys are better than girls in mathematics. In addition, there were no significant correlations between mathematics anxiety and either of the role scores. This suggests that mathematics anxiety contributes more to female teachers' views of boys' and girls' aptitude at mathematics than sex-role identity. The role of mathematics anxiety and the stereotyping of boys as better than girls at mathematics could be more fully explored in future research. Although this study did not support the hypotheses, sex-role identity is still an important aspect of teachers' behavior and attitudes towards their students. It would still be valuable to make efforts for teachers to become aware of the relationship between sex typed beliefs and their treatment of their students.

Subject Area

Cognitive therapy|Educational psychology|Social psychology

Recommended Citation

Wortel, Kim Elizabeth, "Teacher gender-role identity and gender attribution of student mathematic ability" (1996). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI9701163.



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