Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Education (MSEd)


Education and Human Development


Self-worth theory of achievement motivation asserts that in a situation where poor performance is expected to show shortcomings in aptitude, students will withdraw in order to avoid the possibility of damaging their self-worth. It is in these settings where female students’ self-perception impacts their ability to participate and learn. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that we create classrooms, particularly within the mathematics and science arenas, where female students do not feel inferior to their male counterparts nor feel uncomfortable expressing their ideas – a place where they can respond and learn without consequence or damage to self-esteem. Quite simply, the impetus to study gender and mathematics is to better understand how equity in a field where females have been traditionally underrepresented may be acquired. This thesis project explores the potential benefits of a positive and supportive class experience for female learners in eighth grade mathematics. Through research conducted in “collaboration through conversation,” all-female friendship groups were examined for increased communication in a learning setting. Guided by Vygotsky’s social development theory, which asserts that social interactions impact cognitive development, the research chronicles observation of all-female study groups to better understand their comfort level with others and the subject area.

The research project was implemented in a suburban middle school. Two sets of female students participated in the ten day study. Data was collected through pre and post study interviews and transcripts of audiotaped work group sessions. These were examined for connections to previous research and any emerging trends. Conclusions drawn, while acknowledging some limitations, maintain the benefits and positive outcomes noted in all-female pairings in a mathematics learning environment.


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