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Webster, Jennifer Michelle
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Middle Tennessee State University
Girls are less likely than boys to pursue a degree or career in a mathematics-based field. Girls tend to have higher grades and similar test scores when compared with boys. However, girls’ affective beliefs, including confidence, fall behind those of their male counterparts. The purpose of this study was to understand how girls perceive the connection between classroom activities and their feelings of self-efficacy in the mathematics classroom. I used a multiple case study to explore five Algebra 2 students’ confidence throughout a unit of study on polynomial functions. The study addressed the following research questions: 1. What are high school girls’ perceptions of the connection between various forms of classroom activities and their confidence on mathematics assessments, if any? 2. How do specific forms of classroom assessment contribute to the growth of high school girls’ mathematical confidence, if at all? This case study analyzed survey responses, assessment reflections, and interview data collected from five students over the course of approximately three weeks as their Algebra 2 classes covered a unit on polynomial and rational functions. The survey, reflections, and interview questions were centered around understanding the girls’ confidence in mathematics. Bandura’s (1995) four sources of self-efficacy provided a framework for analyzing the reflection and interview data. The findings of this study included a collection of student perceived benefits and limitations to their confidence in mathematics based on the type of classroom activity discussed. Mastery experiences had the greatest impact on student confidence. Vicarious experiences and social experiences influenced the students’ confidence; however, the social influence came from the teacher rather than peers most of the time. Finally, there were other factors outside of the classroom impacting the students’ confidence in mathematics. This study produced results that are significant in four ways. First, the results connect to prior research by supporting the four sources of self-efficacy (Bandura, 1997) as influential to girls’ confidence in mathematics. Second, this study offers theoretical implications as to how Women’s Ways of Knowing (Belenky et al., 1986) informs the four sources of self-efficacy (Bandura, 1997). Third, the results provide suggestions for practice for secondary mathematics teachers to support girls’ confidence in mathematics. Finally, questions and considerations for future research emerged from the results of this study.
Activities, Assessment, Classroom, Confidence, Girls, Mathematics, Mathematics education