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PHD - Doctor of Philosophy




It has been argued by some that boys are inherently better in mathematics than girls (Halpern, 2012; Summers, 2005). However, according to international assessments such as the Trends in Mathematics and Science Study’s (TIMSS) and Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), boys do not always outperform girls in mathematics (Mullis, Martin, Foy, & Arora, 2012; OECD, 2014). As such, something other than biology might better explain variations in mathematics performance. One explanation may be self-efficacy, a label used to describe judgments people make about themselves in terms of whether or not they have the capability of doing something (Bandura, 1995; Bandura, 1997). Self-efficacy has been found to have a significant effect on academic achievement (Bandura, 1995; Bandura, 1997; Borman & Overman, 2004; Fast, Lewis, Bryant, Bocian, Cardullo, Rettig, & Hammond, 2010; Pietsch, Walker, & Chapman, 2003). This dissertation explored the relationship of gender, self-efficacy, and mathematics achievement on the TIMSS assessment as a way to challenge biological arguments that boys are inherently better than girls in mathematics. The country of focus is the United States and the students studied were fourth grade participants who took the 2007 TIMSS test (n = 7,896) and eighth grade participants who took TIMSS 2011 (n = 10,477). Self-efficacy was examined through responses to selected TIMSS student background questionnaire statements that represented self-efficacy. Results of this study show that gender on its own is not a significant predictor of mathematics achievement. A positive relationship exists between self-efficacy and mathematics achievement. Further, high self-efficacy is the greatest predictor of mathematics achievement studied in this dissertation. High self-efficacy gave boys a greater advantage in mathematics than girls at both grade levels. This work supports the importance of self-efficacy to mathematics achievement and diminishes the significance of gender to the same end.



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