Date of Award

1983

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Kathryn Quina

Abstract

The present investigation was designed to extend the research on cognitive and social factors predicting both pattern of enrollment in mathematics courses across the high school years and twelfth grade mathematical aptitude test scores among women and men. A total of 226 seniors enrolled in a high school located in an upper-class neighborhood in New England volunteered to participate and completed a booklet containing: a student consent form, the Attitudes toward Mathematics Scales (Fennema & Sherman, 1976), the Agency and Communion Competency Scale (White, 1979), and a background questionnaire. A member of the school staff obtained eighth grade Space Relations Test (DAT) scores and twelfth grade Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT-M) scores from the school records for 169 of the students who volunteered. These 169 students (80 men and 89 women) for whom scores on the cognitive measures were available were the participants in the present study.

No group-related differences of practical significance, as assessed by the Eta statistic, were found between students in the participant and non-participant groups. Few differences of practical significance were found between the senior men and women in the participant group. The men and women were found to have similar backgrounds. No significant sex-related difference was found for either eighth grade Space Relations Test score or twelfth grade SAT-M score. Significant sex-related differences in favor of the men were found on the variables of experience in math- and space-related courses and activities, perception of encouragement to study math, pattern of math courses completed, traditionality of career choice, and Attitude toward Mathematics, but only the last two reached a level of practical significance of .40.

The results of Multiple Regression Analyses, using a forward stepwise procedure to isolate factors predicting pattern of math courses completed across the high school years revealed that, for both the men and the women, SAT-M score was the most important correlate of pattern of math course enrollment. SAT-M score contributed approximately 56 percent of the total variance accounted for in pattern of math courses for both men and women. When entered into the equations after SAT-M, the effects of eighth grade Space Relations Test score, traditionality of career choice, Agentic Competency score, and Attitude toward Mathematics were negligible.

The results of Path Analyses of factors predicting twelfth grade SAT-M score of men and women revealed that pattern of math courses was the most important determinant of men's SAT-M score, whereas eighth grade Space Relations Test score was the most important determinant of women's SAT-M score. For the men, eighth grade Space Relations Test score was found to be the second most important determinant of SAT-M score, whereas pattern of math courses Space Relations Test score or twelfth grade SAT-M score. Significant sex-related differences in favor of men were found on the variables of experience in math- and space-related courses and activities, perception of encouragement to study math, pattern of math courses completed, traditionality of career choice, and Attitude toward Mathematics, but only the last two reached a level of practical significance of .40.

The results of Path Analyses of factors predicting twelfth grade SAT-M scores of men and women revealed that both pattern of math courses arid eighth grade Space Relations Test score were important determinants of men's and women's SAT-M score. It was concluded that both cognitive and social variables are important determinants of men's and women's twelfth grade mathematical aptitude test scores, as Fennema and Sherman have posited.

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