Date of Award

10-26-2009

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Middle-Secondary Education and Instructional Technology

First Advisor

David W. Stinson, Ph.D. - Committee Chair

Second Advisor

Brian A. Williams, Ph.D. - Committee Member

Third Advisor

Deron Boyles, Ph.D. - Committee Member

Fourth Advisor

Megan Sinnott, Ph.D. - Committee Member

Abstract

Achievement and the experiences of women in secondary school mathematics have been well documented in the research literature (e.g., Benbow & Stanley, 1980, 1983; Tartre & Fennema, 1995; Sherman, 1982; Ryckman & Peckham, 1987; Keller & Dauenheimer, 2003). With respect to achievement, the research literature primarily focuses on how women are deficient to men (e.g., Benbow & Stanley, 1980, 1983) and the roles affective attributes (e.g., Sherman, 1982; Fennema, Petersen, Carpenter & Lubinski, 1990) and stereotype threat (e.g., Quinn & Spencer, 2001; Steele & Aronson, 1995) have played in women’s deficiencies. Despite the perspective and nature of this research, there are, however, women who have achieved at extraordinarily high levels in the secondary mathematics classroom. It is important to examine this historical research as it has impacted the views of teachers, researchers, and media with regard to female mathematics students’ opportunities. By reflecting upon the research literature and its far reaching impacts, high-achieving women in mathematics can begin to reverse the perceptions that limit their opportunities. Thus, the purpose of this study was to explore, through the experiences and stories relayed by the study’s participants, how young women might negotiate the (historic all male) mathematics domain. Employing a qualitative research designed within a phenomenological framework and analyzed through a combination of postmodern and standpoint feminisms, I examined the stories of four undergraduate female students who were identified as being high-achieving in secondary school mathematics. These young women, by reflecting upon their secondary school experiences, and by reflecting upon their experiences within the context of the existing research literature, not only identified the aspects of their lives they felt had the greatest impact upon their opportunities but also examined their personal definitions of success and the impacts their gender had on their (socially defined) achievements within secondary school mathematics.

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