What Are the Gender Differences in Achievement for the Content Areas?
Exhibit 3.5 displays average achievement in mathematics content areas by gender for the Benchmarking entities as well as the comparison countries. The most striking feature of the exhibit is the very small number of statistically significant differences. There were no significant gender differences in average achievement in any Benchmarking jurisdiction, except that boys had higher average achievement than girls in fractions and number sense in Pennsylvania for the Southwest Pennsylvania Math and Science Collaborative and for the state as a whole. Even though the United States had higher average achievement for boys than for girls in measurement, there were no significant differences in the Benchmarking entities.
An important stage of item selection for the TIMSS 1999 assessment was the examination of item statistics to detect items that differentiated between groups, including girls and boys, at the country level. Such items were scrutinized and retained when there was no apparent source of gender bias. It is therefore likely that the absence of significant gender differences in the averages for girls and boys in a country is due partly to a balance between items on which one or the other gender tends to perform better. It is also reasonable to assume that where significant differences do occur, they result from gender differences in one or more of the factors in student backgrounds and schooling that have consistently been found to affect achievement in mathematics.
In spite of there being few statistically significant differences in the average achievement of girls and boys in the content areas, it is interesting to look at the patterns of the differences. Consistent with the differences in the international averages, there was a strong tendency across the Benchmarking entities for boys to have higher average achievement than girls in fractions and number sense, measurement, and geometry. The results were more mixed in data representation, analysis, and probability and in algebra.
TIMSS 1999 is a project of the International
Boston College, Lynch School of Education