In the early years of schooling, there is barely any gender divide in maths. But by age 8, a clear gap in self perception of mathematical ability develops in female students32 one that widens as they enter high school and often they decide against pursuing maths in senior year levels33.
This is not because girls don’t recognise how useful maths can be to them later in life, including in helping them to pursue their desired career, they do. But lower levels of confidence and higher performance anxiety are likely connected to what studies show as a lack of interest — and liking — of the subject35 36.
Maths Pathway addresses all aspects of this problem. The model is designed around mastery learning37. Students work in their Zone of Proximal Development 38 39and with the fundamental understanding that they must actively construct their mathematical understanding from existing knowledge40. This in turn requires a hierarchical learning paradigm wherein each piece of new learning has strict prerequisites that must first be met41.
In other words, students can only conceptually understand a new piece of maths if they have already mastered everything that leads to that point.
The model is centred on rewarding accuracy and effort and encouraging productive struggle, students develop perseverance and resilience and take ownership — becoming intrinsically motivated learners.
This approach enables student growth, regardless of gender. The average female student in 2019 learned 1.29 years worth of maths curriculum in 12 months, exceeding the already impressive growth rate of 1.22 achieved by male students.
These findings tell an important story. That all students in Maths Pathway classrooms are more than doubling the amount of maths they master every year.
32. Dickhäuser, O & Meyer, W.U, 2006. ‘Gender differences in young children’s math ability attributions’, Psychology Science, vol. 48, no. 1, pp. 3-16.
33. Ertl, B, Luttenberger, S & Paechter, M 2017, ‘The Impact of Gender Stereotypes on the Self-Concept of Female Students in STEM Subjects with an Under-Representation of Females’, Front Psychol, vol. 703, no. 8, <https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00703/full>
34. Bieg, M, Goetz, T, Wolter, I & Hall, N.C 2015, ‘Gender stereotype endorsement differentially predicts girls’ and boys’ trait-state discrepancy in math anxiety’, Front Psychol, vol. 17, no. 6, pp. 1404.
35. Watt, H.M.G, Eccles, J.S & Durik, A.M 2006, ‘The leaky mathematics pipeline for girls: A motivational analysis of high school enrolments in Australia and the USA’, Equal Opportunities International, vol. 25, no. 8, pp. 642–659.
36. Watt, H.M.G 2016, Promoting girls’ and boys’ engagement and participation in senior secondary STEM fields and occupational aspirations, <https://research.acer.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1285&context=research_conference>
37. Guskey, T.R & Pigott, T.D 1988, ‘Research on Group-Based Mastery Learning Programs: A Meta-Analysis’, The Journal of Educational Research, vol. 81 no.4, pp. 197-216, DOI: 10.1080/00220671.1988.10885824
38. Vygotsky, L.S 1978, Mind in Society: The Development of Higher Psychological Processes, Harvard University Press, Cambridge.
39. Wood, D.J, Bruner, J.S & Ross, G 1976, ‘The Role of Tutoring in Problem Solving’, Journal of Child Psychiatry and Psychology, vol. 17, pp. 89-100.
40. Cobb, P, 1994, ‘ Where is the mind? Constructivist and sociocultural perspectives on mathematical development’, Educational Researcher, vol. 23, pp. 13–20.
41. Jones, H.L, Russell, M, 1979, ‘Hierarchical learning paradigm’, Journal of Research in Science Teaching, vol. 16, no. 6, pp. 489-499
James, S, 2019, Year 12 mathematics participation australia 2008-