The University of Montana
Department of Mathematical Sciences

Technical report #4/2008

Explaining the Icelandic Gender “Anomaly” in PISA 2003

Olof Steinthorsdottir
Faculty of Education
University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

Bharath Sriraman
Dept. of Mathematical Sciences
The University of Montana


PISA 2003 presented interesting results about students' mathematical achievement in Iceland, where Iceland was the only country that showed significant gender differences in mathematics in favor of girls. These unique results when statistically analyzed, it became evident that the gender differences were only measurable in the rural areas of Iceland. This poses a very interesting question about differences in rural and urban educational communities. The authors conducted a qualitative study in Iceland in 2007, in which 19 students from rural and urban Iceland who participated in PISA 2003 were interviewed in order to investigate these differences and determine factors that contributed to gender differences. The purpose of these interviews was to get students to elicit their thoughts on their mathematical experiences, their beliefs about mathematical learning, their thoughts about the PISA results, and their ideas on the reasons behind the unusual PISA 03 results. The data was transcribed, coded and analyzed using techniques from analytic induction in order to build themes and to present feminine and masculine student perspectives on the Icelandic anomaly.

Keywords:Achievement; Beliefs; Gendered discourse; Iceland; PISA 2003

AMS Subject Classification: 97

Download Technical Report: fdf (420 KB)

Pre-print of paper to appear in ZDM- The International Journal on Mathematics Education, vol.40, no.5, xx-xx