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The Effects of Irrelevant Information and Familiarity in Math Performance: A Comparison of Male and Female College Students
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by E. Lauren Stites, Shelia M. Kennison*, and Joseph J. Horton* - Grove City College (Stites, Horton); Oklahoma State University (Kennison)
Categories: Cognitive | Educational | Gender
The research investigated gender differences in men and women's use of irrelevant information when solving word problems requiring algebraic solutions. Low and Over (1993) found that girls used irrelevant information in their solutions of word problems more often than boys. We hypothesized that women may be less familiar with scenarios described in word problems than men. Scenarios used generally in textbooks and used in prior research may have been more familiar to boys than to girls. In our experiment, 68 women and 28 men solved word problems that either described a scenario stereotypically familiar to females or stereotypically familiar to males. Word problems either contained or did not contain irrelevant information. Our results indicated that females and males both showed significantly higher confidence levels when solving scenarios stereotypically familiar to males than when solving scenarios stereotypically familiar to females. No differences were observed in the use of irrelevant information by male and female participants.