Where are all the girls in my extension maths class?

This week I want to share with you a snapshot of the reading I have been doing around one aspect of this topic. Firstly, I was interested in unpacking my observation that in the extension/enrichment classes there are often more boys than girls.

This is some of the research around this...

When you look at Australia's NAPLAN results from 2008-2016 boys outperform girls in Numeracy in Years 3,5,7 and 9. Further to this, there is there is a greater proportion of boys in the top performance band for each year in NAPLAN results. This confirms the gender disparity we see in our extension classes.

In 2016 there were 61 girls for every 100 boys enrolled in the most Advanced Maths subject in Year 12. This is interesting, as on the surface it would appear that this also mirrors what we see in our extension maths classes in Primary Schools. The pattern continues. But is this because boys are stronger at maths? The answer is no. This research shows that there is generally very little difference between girls and boys in their mathematical ability. The differences have more to do with their attitude to the subject and the opportunities they are provided in maths.

This research shows that girls score the same as boys in maths, but higher in art. The authors suggest this leads girls to choose Arts careers, as they feel more successful in this domain. This research found that overall girls are less confident in their self-perceived ability to learn maths and are more influenced by their success relative to their peers. This means girls are often comparing themselves to others in the class, and if they feel like they are not 'doing well' in maths- even if they are- they may turn towards the subjects they are having greater success in like reading/writing. In turn they will focus more on fostering that interest, thus their maths loses out.

I think the big takeaway from this for me is that it is really important for us as teachers to encourage girls in their pursuit of maths, and STEM based careers. I think it also warrants us thinking about trying to have more girls in our extension classes to foster their confidence and interest in maths.


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