Proceedings of epiSTEME 3
teaching boys is different from teaching girls. But, thereason for difference in teaching is ascribed to boys beingintelligent and asking deep questions and girls being hardworking, paying attention, and trying to learn not askingquestions. Boys are naughty because they are interested ina lot of activities and have a lot of energy, while girls areshy, well behaved and easy to teach. Teachers appear to provide justification for boys’ lack of attention and applica-tion by ascribing it to their involvement in other activities.These views about the expected and acceptable behaviour from boys and girls suggest that the girls’ classroom wouldhave a different ethos as compared to a boys’ classroom.The difference would be in terms of the roles that the stu-dents play in the classroom and the relationship that theywould have with their teacher – boys being more active,asking questions, and being encouraged to learn throughmotivational strategies. Girls on the other hand would be provided with rules which they are expected to follow. Their hard work and attentive nature would ensure that they par-ticipate in classroom work, irrespective of motivational strat-egies. Indeed, these different classroom ethos and rela-tionships could mean that boys and girls learn differentmathematics, even where curriculum content and materialsare the same. Serious implications arise for mathematicsteacher education as noted in this paper.Findings also indicate that to create mathematics classroomswhich are equitable on the lines of gender, key beliefs and perceptions of societal roles and expectations from boysand girls need to be challenged. For example, data showsthat the perception of boys as better mathematicians aredeeply and crucially linked to perception of gender roles insociety.
Yes, boys are better mathematicians because they think in(sic) deeply and try to find better solutions. To some extentI agree with this. And probably the reason for it is thatAllah has made man superior to a woman. It is natural thatfrom childhood they (boys) ask questions why, what, how.And comparatively girls from the beginning you explain tothem and they accept it. They have curiosity but from thestart that element of curiosity is bounded so that it stops.This is the reason that our experience tells us that boyslearn better. (
Hence, the notion that “Allah has prepared males as supe-rior to females” or the view that “Girls are naturally shyand not prone to questioning” were evident in the responsesthat the teachers made, and have a strong role in how inter-actions in the mathematics classrooms are shaped. Hence,creating gender equity in mathematics is in fact changingthese deep-rooted beliefs and perceptions of boys and girls,and of the roles that they play in society. Teacher educa-tion curriculum need to make these links explicit and bringthem in the realm of discussions so that they may be problematised, challenged and modified. Nature of mathematics knowledge as objective, fixed andrational would need to be challenged and replaced with aview of mathematics as socially constructed and culturallyembedded. This view of mathematics would lead to thelearners playing an active role in developing understandingthrough active engagement with the mathematical tasks andideas.Teachers tended to assume that with the “same nationalcurriculum and prescribed textbooks” boys and girls hadthe same opportunities for mathematics learning providedthey had access. However, micro analysis of classroom processes and interviews with teachers showed otherwise.In the single sex classrooms gender equity pedagogy re-quired a nuanced and subtle approach to teaching, and cre-ating conducive environment in the classroom. It requiredteachers to question their deep rooted assumptions aboutgender roles in society, perception of themselves as math-ematics learners and its implications for positive or weak role models for mathematics learners. Teachers needed to pull back from the limited world of the classroom andcontextualize their teaching in the broader social setting torecognize the gender disparity in the quality of mathematicsteaching and develop a response to it.
Implications and Recommendations
These findings reported above have major implications andrecommendations for teacher education curricula in math-ematics. First teacher education curricula need to focus onteachers’ life experiences within which are rooted their viewsand perceptions of gender. Hence, curriculum and courseswhich make a sharp distinction between personal and pro-fessional could result in false dichotomies with very little, if any, impact of the course work on changing teachers’ be-lief and perceptions about gender (in this case) and math-ematics teaching and learning. This bias towards boys wasevident in the findings where an overwhelming majoritystill considered boys as better mathematicians. Teacher education curricula need to make these links explicit and bring them in the realm of discussions so that they may be problematised, challenged and modified.Second, incorporating strategies and approaches to gender equity would need to problematise the nature of mathemat-ics knowledge. For example, an implication of these viewsof knowledge residing with the experts is that it favourscertain ways of knowing and certain forms of knowledgeover others, so that in mathematics students are encour-aged not to rely on their own experiences but to deny it and