The General Public’s Views of Gender and Mathematics: A Non-Binary Study

In recent years, societal shifts have occurred in terms of conceptions of gender, moving beyond binary perspectives. In this project, involving street-level survey research, we seek to understand the general public’s views about and understandings of gender and mathematics in a non-binary manner. The research builds on an international project led by Helen Forgasz and Gilah Leder (Monash University), regarding the general public’s views of gender and mathematics, through a revision of the survey instrument. In the prior study, the survey questions were worded in a binary manner (e.g., “Who are better at mathematics, girls or boys?”), although participants were informed that they could provide other responses, such as “no difference”. However, the implication was still that gender is a binary construct.

The aims of this research project are three-fold: (1) Pilot a questionnaire in which participants are asked about their views of gender and mathematics in a non-binary manner, (2) Investigate participants’ views of gender and mathematics and use/understanding of gendered language and concepts, and (3) Draw comparisons to the research (led by Forgasz and Leder) in which a binary version of this survey was used.

This research represents a significant shift in the field of gender issues research in mathematics education. To date, all known research about people’s views of gender and mathematics has been conducted in a binary manner. We live in a world that, while still binaried in many ways, is slowly shifting to have a better understanding and acceptance of non-binary gender identities and presentations. Thus, it is vital that mathematics education research shifts alongside this increased societal understanding of gender, sex, and related concepts as non-binary social constructs (spectrums), rather than binary inevitabilities. Consequently, the findings from this study can help researchers and educators to re-examine their understandings of these concepts.

This work is undertaken in collaboration with Dr. Jennifer Hall (University of Monash) and is funded by the Early Career Research Grant (Faculty of Education, Monash University). Projected end in 2018.

Contact: Limin Jao, PhD
(514) 398-4527 Ext. 089696
Department of Integrated Studies in Education
3700 Rue McTavish
McGill University
Montreal, Quebec H3A 1Y2

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