Monash University
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Affect and mathematics education in Mozambique: gender, parents, social and economic factors

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posted on 2017-02-28, 23:15 authored by Murimo, Adelino Evaristo
The aim of this study was to investigate the relationships between Grade 7 boys’ and girls’ beliefs and attitudes towards mathematics learning and parents’ views, and family circumstances (e.g., parental education and occupation, home language, number of siblings, and economic resources) in Mozambique. The study was inspired by on-going concerns about persistent patterns of gender differences in mathematics achievement favouring boys among grade 6 pupils in Mozambique (Saito, 2004, 2010). Although gender issues and affective factors in mathematics education have received considerable attention in the western countries, a review of the literature revealed that there is a lack of research in this field in primary schools in Mozambique. Thus, this study was aimed at filling this gap. A convenience sample composed of 300 Grade 7 pupils (134 boys and 166 girls), 225 parents or guardians of these children (98 fathers, 96 mothers, and 31 guardians), and five principals (3 males and 2 females) from participating schools took part in the study. The ages of the children varied from 11 to 16 and the mean age was 12.9. The dependent variables examined included: perceived achievement; occupational aspirations; confidence in learning mathematics; perceived usefulness of mathematics; causal attributions for success and failure in mathematics; gender stereotyping of mathematics; and parent involvement in education. These variables were examined due to their relationships with task-choices, persistence, and achievement (Eccles et al., 1983). Pen-and-paper surveys and interviews were used to gather quantitative and qualitative data. The main findings of the study were: • Boys and girls viewed mathematics as the most difficult subject. Similarly, parents believed mathematics was the worst subject for their children. • The children’s perceived usefulness of mathematics was strongly associated with age, education of parent, geolocation, and number of siblings. Having electricity, piped water, television set, computer, and internet access were positively associated with perceived usefulness of mathematics and confidence, but not with perceived achievement in mathematics. • Having calculators, cell phones, textbooks, and language spoken at home were not associated with children’s affect towards mathematics. • Boys and parents tended to view mathematics learning as a male domain reflecting the traditional belief, identified in the 1970s, that mathematics is a male preserve (Fennema & Sherman, 1976). In contrast, girls tended to view mathematics learning as a gender-neutral domain. • Boys’ and girls’ attributions for success and failure in mathematics were not functional (Meyer & Koehler, 1990) as they believed that the most plausible cause for their success was environment (e.g., teacher, help) and for their failure it was task difficulty (e.g., hard mathematics). Parents’ attributions in regard to failure were consistent with those of their children but for success were not. Parents believed success in mathematics is achieved through effort. • Consistent with the literature, girls preferred to engage in ‘people-oriented’ occupations and boys preferred ‘things-oriented’ occupations. Parents’ occupational aspirations for their daughters and sons followed the same pattern. This study was conducted only in one province in Mozambique. Thus, further research is necessary to substantiate the findings from this study in other Mozambican Provinces. However, the results reported have implications for mathematics teaching to children from low-income parents.


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Helen Forgasz

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Doctor of Philosophy

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Faculty of Education

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