Gender differences in arithmetic strategies: Examples from Danish research

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Students’ preferred strategies for solving arithmetic problems have been shown to be related to general mathematics achievement. Furthermore, use of number-based strategies (NBS), i.e. strategies related to understanding of numbers and operations (but not automatisation of standard algorithm), are recommended in Danish curriculum aims in mathematics.
Sunde et al. (2023) found Danish grade 1 students’ strategy use in single-digit addition predicted mathematics achievement in grade 4. Sunde et al. (2020) found large gender differences in grade 1—4 students’ arithmetic strategy use in single-digit addition. This lead to the question: what happens beyond the early grades and single-digit addition?
With a new extensive study on 2298 Danish grade 3, 6 and 8 students’ strategy use for multi-digit arithmetic (Jóelsdóttir, 2023) we explore the following questions: To what extent is 1) preferences for NBS in multi-digit arithmetic related to general mathematics achievement, i.e. national test scores in mathematics (NT), in grades 3, 6 and 8, and 2) do gender differences appear in NBS in these grades.
Student preference for strategies in whole-number multidigit arithmetic problems in addition, subtraction and for grade 6 and 8 multiplication, was assessed in an adaptation of the Tri-phase Flexibility Assessment (Jóelsdóttir, 2023) and coded for use (yes/no) of NBS.
The proportional use of NBS in solving multidigit arithmetic problems correlated positively with NT (r=0.28, p<0.0001). At all three grade levels, boys used NBS significantly more than girls. In absolute terms, the sex difference was largest in grade 6 (34 vs. 21 %) and lowest in grade 8 (21 vs. 13 %), but in relative terms it was even across grades (boys using NBS c. 50% more than girls).
In linear regression analyses, NBS and NT was similarly positively related in boys and girls (Boys: NT = -0.07+1.06NBS, n=1062,; girls: NT = -0.04+0.936NBS, n=1076; test for difference in slope: t2136= 0.77, p = 0.44; test for difference in intercept: t2136= 0.56, p = 0.58), but explained significantly higher amount of variation in boys (r2= 0.097; 95%CI: 0.065-0.132) than in girls (r2= 0.053; 95%CI: 0.030-0.082).
We conclude that strategy use in multi-digit arithmetic, specifically use of NBS, is an important indicator of students’ competence in mathematics, and that gender differences in mathematics are consistent throughout school.
The above analysis is work in progress. The next step is to look further into age related differences related to mathematical achievement and use of number-based strategies.
Translated title of the contributionKønsforskelle i regnestrategier: Eksempler fra dansk forskning
Original languageEnglish
Publication date17 Nov 2023
Publication statusPublished - 17 Nov 2023
Event3rd QUERD: 3rd Meeting on Quantitative Educational Research in Denmark - Comwell Kellers Park, Vejle, Denmark
Duration: 16 Nov 202317 Nov 2023


Conference3rd QUERD
LocationComwell Kellers Park


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