Investigating Upper Secondary School Teachers’ Conceptions: Is Mathematical Reasoning Considered Gendered?

  • Lovisa SumpterEmail author


This study examines Swedish upper secondary school teachers’ gendered conceptions about students’ mathematical reasoning: whether reasoning was considered gendered and, if so, which type of reasoning was attributed to girls and boys. The sample consisted of 62 teachers from six different schools from four different locations in Sweden. The results showed that boys were significantly more often attributed to memorised reasoning and delimiting algorithmic reasoning. Girls were connected to gamiliar algorithmic reasoning, a reasoning type where you use standard method when solving a mathematical task. Creative mathematical founded reasoning, which is novel, plausible and founded in mathematical properties, was not considered gendered.


Gender Mathematical reasoning Teachers’ conceptions Upper secondary school 


  1. Acker, J. (2006). Inequality regimes. Gender, class, and race in organizations. Gender & Society, 20(4), 441–464.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Allard, A. C. (2004). Speaking of gender: Teachers’ metaphorical constructs of male and female students. Gender and Education, 16(3), 347–363.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Becker, J. R. (1995). Women’s ways of knowing in mathematics. In P. Rogers & G. Kaiser (Eds.), Equity in mathematics education: Influences of feminism and culture. London, England: Falmer Press.Google Scholar
  4. Belenky, M. E., Clinchy, B. M., Goldberger, N. R. & Tarule, J. M. (1986). Women’s ways of knowing: The development of self, voice, and mind. New York, NY: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  5. Ben-Shakhar, G. & Sinai, Y. (1991). Gender differences in multiple-choice tests: The role of differential guessing tendencies. Journal for Educational Measurement, 28(1), 23–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bergqvist, T., Lithner, J. & Sumpter, L. (2007). Upper secondary students’ task reasoning. International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology, 39(1), 1–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bjerrum Nielsen, H. (2003). One of the boys? Doing gender in scouting. Génève, Sweden: World Organization of the Scout Movement.Google Scholar
  8. Brandell, G., Leder, G. & Nyström, P. (2007). Gender and mathematics: Recent development from a Swedish perspective. ZDM, 39(3), 235–250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Brandell, G. & Staberg, E.-M. (2008). Mathematics. A female, male or gender neutral domain? A study of attitudes among students at secondary level. Gender and Education, 20(5), 495–509.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Burton, L. (1999). Fables: The tortoise? The hare? The mathematically underachieving male? Gender and Education, 11(4), 413–426.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Carr, M. & Jessup, D. L. (1997). Gender differences in first grade mathematics strategy use: Social and metacognitive influences. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98(2), 318–328.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Damarin, S. & Erchick, D. B. (2010). Toward clarifying the meanings of gender in mathematics education research. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 41(4), 310–323.Google Scholar
  13. Davies, B. (2003). Hur pojkar och flickor gör kön [Frogs and snails and feminist tales: Preschool children and gender]. Stockholm, Sweden: Liber.Google Scholar
  14. Fennema, E., Carpenter, T. P., Jacobs, V. R., Franke, M. L. & Levi, L. W. (1998). A longitudinal study of gender differences in young children’s mathematical thinking. Educational Researcher, 27(5), 6–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Forgasz, H. J. & Leder, G. C. (1996). Mathematics classrooms, gender and affect. Mathematics Education Research Journal, 8, 129–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gallagher, A. M. & DeLisi, R. (1994). Gender differences in scholastic aptitude test—mathematical problem solving among high-ability students. Journal of Educational Psychology, 86, 204–211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gannerud, E. (2009). Pedagogers syn på några aspekter av genus och jämställdhet i arbetet [Pedagogues’ views on some aspects of gender and equality in work]. In I. Wernersson (Ed.), Genus i förskola och skola. Förändringar i policy, perspektiv och praktik (pp. 85–104). Gothenburg: Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis.Google Scholar
  18. Gunderson, E. A., Ramirez, G., Levine, S. C. & Beilock, S. L. (2012). The role of parents and teachers in the development of gender-related math attitudes. Sex Roles, 66, 153–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Harding, S. (1986). The science question in feminism. Ithica, NY: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Jackson, L. A., Hodge, C. N. & Ingram, J. M. (1994). Gender and self-concept: A re-examination of stereotypic differences and the role of gender attitudes. Sex Roles, 30, 615–630.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Jussim, L. & Eccles, J. S. (1992). Teacher expectations II: Construction and reflection of student achievement. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 63(6), 947–961.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kahlin, L. (2008). Sociala kategoriseringar i samspel. Hur kön, etnicitet och generation konstitueras i ungdomars samtal [Social categorisation in interplay. Gender, Etnicity and generation constituted in adolescents’ conversation]. (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from
  23. Kimball, M. (1994). Bara en myt att flickor är sämre i matematik [Only a myth that girls are worse at mathematics]. Kvinnovetenskaplig Tidskrift, 15, 40–53.Google Scholar
  24. Klein, P. S., Adi-Japha, E. & Hakak-Benizri, S. (2010). Mathematical thinking of kindergarten boys and girls: Similar achievement, different contributing process. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 73, 233–246.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. LaLonde, D., Leedy, M. G. & Runk, K. (2003). Gender equity in mathematics: Beliefs of students, parents and teachers. School Science and Mathematics, 103(6), 285–292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Leder, G.C. & Forgasz, H. (2002). Two new instruments to probe attitudes about gender and mathematics. Retrieved from ERIC database. (ED463312)Google Scholar
  27. Li, Q. (1999). Teachers’ beliefs and gender differences in mathematics: A review. Educational Research, 41(1), 63–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lithner, J. (2008). A research framework for creative and imitative reasoning. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 67(3), 255–276.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Mendick, H. (2002). Narratives of gender and maths. In P. Valero & O. Skovsmose (Eds.), Proceedings of the 3rd International MES Conference. (pp. 1–13). Copenhagen, Denmark: Centre for Research in Learning Mathematics.Google Scholar
  30. National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (2000). Principles and standards for school mathematics. Reston, VA: The Council.Google Scholar
  31. Niss, M. (2003). Mathematical competencies and the learning of mathematics: The Danish KOM project. In A. Gagatsis & S. Papastavridis (Eds.), Proceedings of the 3rd Mediterranean conference on mathematical education (pp. 115–124). Athens, Greece: The Hellenic Mathematical Society.Google Scholar
  32. Odenbring, Y. (2010). Kramar, kategoriseringar och hjälpfröknar [Hughs, categories and help teachers]. (Doctoral dissertation), Retrieved from
  33. Öhrn, E. (1990). Könsmönster i klassrumsinteraktion. En observations- och intervjustudie av högstadieelevers lärarkontakter [Gender patterns in classrooms interactions. An observational and interview study of lower secondary school students’ contact with teachers]. Göteborg: Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis.Google Scholar
  34. Ojala, M. & Talts, L. (2007). Preschool achievement in Finland and Estonia: Cross-cultural comparison between the cities of Helsinki and Tallinn. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 51(2), 205–221.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Palmer, A. (2010). ‘Let’s dance!’ Theorising alternative mathematical practices in early childhood teacher education. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 11(2), 130–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Philipp, R. A. (2007). Mathematics teachers’ beliefs and affect. In F. Lester (Ed.), Second handbook of research in mathematics teaching and learning (pp. 257–315). New York, NY: Information Age.Google Scholar
  37. Räty, H. & Kärkkainen, R. (2011). Are parents’ academic gender stereotypes and changes in them related to their perceptions of their child’s mathematical competence? Educational Studies, 37(3), 371–374.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Schoenfeld, A. H. (1985). Mathematical problem solving. Orlando, FL: Academic.Google Scholar
  39. Skaalvik, S. & Skaalvik, E. M. (2004). Gender differences in math and verbal self-concept, performance expectations, and motivation. Sex Roles, 50, 241–252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Sumpter, L. (2012a). Upper secondary school students’ gendered conceptions about affect in mathematics. Nordic Studies in Mathematics Education, 17(2), 27–47.Google Scholar
  41. Sumpter, L. (2012b). Pre-school mathematics—A gendered activity? Paper presented at the 12th International Congress on Mathematical Education, Seoul, Korea.Google Scholar
  42. Sumpter, L. (2013). Themes and interplay of beliefs in mathematical reasoning. International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 11(5), 1115–1135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Tiedemann, J. (2000a). Gender-related beliefs of teachers in elementary school mathematics. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 41, 191–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Tiedemann, J. (2000b). Parents’ gender stereotypes and teachers’ beliefs as predictors of children’s concept of their mathematical ability in elementary school. Journal of Educational Psychology, 92, 144–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Tiedemann, J. (2002). Teachers’ gender stereotypes as determinants of teacher perceptions in elementary school mathematics. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 50, 49–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Walkerdine, V. (1998). Counting Girls Out. London, England: Falmer Press.Google Scholar
  47. Walls, F. (2010). Freedom to choose? Girls, mathematics and the gendered construction of mathematical identity. In H. J. Forgasz, J. R. Becker, K.-H. Lee & O. B. Steinthorsdottir (Eds.), International perspectives on gender and mathematics education (pp. 87–110). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.Google Scholar
  48. Zhu, Z. (2007). Gender differences in mathematical problem solving patterns: A review of literature. International Education Journal, 8(2), 187–203.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Ministry of Science and Technology, Taiwan 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Education, Health and Social StudiesDalarna UniversityFalunSweden

Personalised recommendations