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Factors Associated With the Selection of Advanced Academic Mathematics Courses by Girls in High School

Haven, Elizabeth W.
Publication Year:
Report Number:
ETS Research Bulletin
Document Type:
Page Count:
Subject/Key Words:
Advanced Courses, Career Choice, Females, High School Students, Mathematics Curriculum, Motivation


This study focuses on identifying the characteristics of girls, teachers, schools, and communities that are associated with the selection of advanced mathematics courses in high school. Mathematics supervisors or departmental heads and senior girls from 63 New Jersey public high schools were surveyed. The high schools were grouped according to their success in motivating girls to study advanced mathematics. None of the differences in school means for the 20 variables used in the comparisons were statistically significant. Three groups of senior girls were compared: 220 girls who studied advanced mathematics with expectations of majoring in it or related fields, 1,076 girls who studied advanced mathematics but who had interests in nonrelated fields, and 544 girls who did not study advanced mathematics even though they had been high achievers in mathematics. Unlike the results in the school comparisons, 11 of the 20 variables used to contrast these three groups of girls were significant. The two most significant variables were a three-point scale evaluating the usefulness of the mathematics studied in high school to future studies and occupations, and a 36-item scale measuring interest in natural science as opposed to social studies. In commenting on why girls do not take advanced mathematics, most supervisors of mathematics noted that girls either did not feel the course was needed for future study or work, or they felt the subject was too difficult. (75pp.)

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