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Gender differences in mathematics achievement: an exploratory study in a primary school in KwaZulu-Natal.

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The study, conducted at a rural primary school in KwaZulu-Natal, explored the issue of the gender gap in Mathematics performance in Grade 6. More specifically, it examined whether there was a significant gender gap in Mathematics achievement, as well as the nature of the gender gap. The study also investigated factors associated with the differential performance of girls and boys in the Mathematics class. Learners' ages ranged from eleven to fifteen years. This study adopted a mixed methods approach. Quantitative data was drawn from Grade 6 Mathematics achievement test results conducted in 2008 and 2009. In addition, individual semi-structured interviews and focus group interviews were conducted with eight Grade 6 learners (four boys, four girls) from the 2009 Grade 6 Mathematics classes. The findings in the study reveal a gender gap in Mathematics achievement in favour of girls. The study pointed to key factors associated with the gender gap which include the issue of boys and masculinities, the dynamics of classroom cultures, and the differential attitudes to learning in respect of boys and girls in the Mathematics class. The small scale study has implications for further research in this area, and for teacher professional development.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.