ERIC Number: ED243786
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1983
Reference Count: 0
Women and Mathematics: Research vs. Achievement in Education.
Abel, Theodora Mead; And Others
Many educators and researchers who believe that girls have less mathematical ability than boys associate this deficiency with girls' inferior spatial ability. This generally accepted belief that spatial skills are a major prerequisite for math achievement was tested through a study of the visual-spatial skills of a sample of 32 professional mathematicians. Subjects responded to the Witkin Embedded Figure Test and participated in brief individual interviews regarding childhood environment and recreational activities. There was little indication from the test that a strong or clear causal relationship exists between the subjects' ability to solve problems presented in the EFT and their achievement in mathematics. Moreover, interviews indicated no consensus that visual-spatial skills were useful to mathematics. Researchers suggest that environment rather than innate ability may be a key factor in math performance. Thus, the source and utility of visual-spatial skills might better be determined by observation and examination of education and experience in school and elsewhere rather than by a search for innate, fixed, and immutable cultural and biological factors. Teachers' beliefs that girls have less math ability than boys or that girls are unsuited for math-related careers can seriously affect the way they teach and what their students learn. (LP)
Descriptors: Biological Influences, Educational Research, Elementary Secondary Education, Environmental Influences, Females, Males, Mathematics Achievement, Mathematics Education, Mathematics Skills, Nature Nurture Controversy, Sex Differences, Sex Fairness, Sex Stereotypes, Spatial Ability, Teacher Attitudes, Teacher Influence
Publication Type: Reports - Research; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Midyear Conference of the American Educational Research Association Research on Women and Education Special Interest Group (9th, Tempe, AZ, November 3-5, 1983).