Term of Award

Spring 2002

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Curriculum Studies

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (restricted to Georgia Southern)

Committee Chair

Ming Fang He

Committee Member 1

Dan Rea

Committee Member 2

Kent Rittschof

Committee Member 3

Sharon Taylor

Abstract

This is a qualitative study of eight S*111 grade female adolescents in rural southeast Georgia. The purpose of this study was to create space for the female adolescent voice in order to gain a deeper understanding of the role of gender on mathematics achievement and career choices. The theoretical position of the study was based on the philosophical tenets of phenomenology (researching the lived experience), hermeneutics (interpreting information to gain possible meanings), and narrative inquiry (making meaning of the research in relationship). Participants were selected based on their responses to a skills inventory questionnaire and their respective mathematics scores from the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. Categories and cut-off limits were established. Additional data collection methods included a school portraiture, individual interviews and observations, focus group interviews, reflective journal writings, and field notes. Emergent themes from an in-depth data analysis of the individual interviews and first focus group interview were the participants' perceived mathematics abilities, classroom experiences, parental expectations, and career choices. Themes emerged from two other focus group interviews and reflective journal writings were the participants' beliefs and attitudes of traditional male careers, marriage and children, adolescent males, and adults.

Five findings emerged from the study: (1) Female adolescents do not perceive gender to be a limiting factor on mathematics achievement levels or career choices. (2) Female adolescents' mathematics abilities are influenced, in varying degrees, by their levels of self-confidence. (3) Female adolescents' perceptions of their mathematics abilities are directly impacted by the negative attitudes of educators. (4) Female adolescents prefer working in small groups with their female peers. (5) Female adolescents' parents support and encourage their daughters' participation in upper-level mathematics courses.

This study's importance lies in its contributions to: (1) creating space for the female adolescent voice in mathematics education and research; (2) understanding the role that parents and educators play in shaping female adolescents' self-confidence; (3) exploring possible meanings of gender and its relevance to mathematics achievement and career choices; and (4) creating gender equitable classrooms. It also has implications for promoting personal growth and enhancing the mathematics teaching profession.

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