Date of Award

2012

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Lisa L. Harlow

Abstract

Investigations into the factors related to math achievement have traditionally been studied within individual countries, despite the existence of large international data sets available for analysis. This dissertation investigated the relationships among gender, socioeconomic status, math attitudes, and math achievement based on information from 50 participating countries in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).

Countries were grouped into clusters using hierarchical cluster analysis. Six cluster solutions were investigated based on average mathematics scores, average science scores, and average math attitude. The clusters were then validated on a separate sample using discriminant function analysis. The validation process utilized several country-level indicator variables, such as the Human Development Index, to ascertain the external validity of the cluster solutions.

Multiple-group latent variable modeling was employed between-clusters and within-clusters to assess the nature and strength of the relationships between gender, socioeconomic status, math attitudes, and math achievement. The findings suggest that math self-confidence has a particularly strong relationship with math achievement, and that value of math has a particularly weak relationship with math achievement. Additionally, gender differences in math achievement appear to have disappeared or now favor female students, but male students report generally higher levels of math self-confidence. Among the implications discussed is the need to promote math self-confidence in education curricula and in teacher education.

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