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Didactic Contract as a Key to Interpreting Gender Differences in Maths

Giorgio Bolondi, Federica Ferretti, Chiara Giberti


Research, at both national and international levels, has started to focus on the gender gap regarding student performances in technological/scientific topics. Fervent ideological and epistemological debates have sprung up, particularly concerning the differences in mathematics test results between males and females (with males outshining females in most countries). In this paper, we analyse some questions taken from the INVALSI mathematics tests administered at varying educational stages; emergent didactic phenomena are investigated via one of the key concepts of mathematics education, the didactic contract. From a quantitative analysis, based on the percentage of answers given and Rasch Model results, it is possible to identify the presence of significant gender differences between the performances which can be traced back to the effects of the didactic contract. Furthermore, study of the features which accompany these gender gaps in the case studies allows us to investigate the gender gap in mathematics via a new interpretative method which also takes into account student ability levels.


Didactic contract; Gender gap; Mathematics education; Rasch analysis; Standardized assessment

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7358/ecps-2018-018-bolo

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Journal of Educational, Cultural and Psychological Studies (ECPS)
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