The results of the GegaMath research project of the Free University of Bozen/Bolzano confirm that these are not cognitive causes. “The difference is mainly due to the persistence of stereotypes and conventions with respect to the potential of males and females”.
MATHEMATICS is male stuff? According to a study by the Free University of Bozen/Bolzano it would seem so, even if the causes are not cognitive but stereotypes. In fact, the first results of the GegaMath research project, coordinated by Professor Giorgio Bolondi, were presented in Bressanone. The aim is to take a picture of the situation in South Tyrol and to support school Intendencies in the design of suitable measures to overcome the gender gap in mathematics learning in primary and secondary school.
In all systems of evaluation of the effectiveness of educational systems – Invalsi in Italy, Vera in Germany or Pisa for the Oecd – one fact is uniformly present: male students achieve better results than female colleagues. This gender difference is even more pronounced in the Province of Bolzano, as also confirmed by the tests in which several institutions in South Tyrol participated: 24 points in the Pisa 2015 tests against a gap of 20 points at the national level and 8 points at the level of the Oecd countries. The Faculty of Education in Bressanone, which has in its mission the training of the teaching staff of the primary school in the province, has taken action to tackle a problem that is anything but secondary. In fact, a difficult relationship with mathematics during the years of compulsory schooling risks compromising future university choices and, consequently, heavily conditioning career prospects.
In order to investigate the phenomenon of the gender gap in mathematics learning in South Tyrol’s schools, in 2018 Giorgio Bolondi, Professor of Mathematics Teaching in Brixen, started the research project GegaMath. Bolondi explains that the different performances of males and females detected in the mathematics learning trials have cultural causes: “The scientific literature explains that this difference is mostly due to the persistence of stereotypes and conventions with respect to the potential of males and females and, of course, has no cognitive basis”. What Bolondi and his research team are interested in understanding is what the situation is at the local level and how measures can be applied to support a more effective acquisition of mathematical knowledge by female students.
The results of the GegaMath project have been presented to the Italian and German school authorities. “In the near future, we hope that these indications can serve as a stimulus for the elaboration, even if necessary, of guidelines to improve the mathematical performance of female students in the province”, concludes the professor.