The University of Montana
Department of Mathematical Sciences

Technical report #2/2007

Gender and Strategy Use in Proportional Situations: An Icelandic Study

Olof Steinthorsdottir
University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, USA

Bharath Sriraman
The University of Montana, USA


This study was conducted to investigate the influence of semantic type and number structure on individuals’ use of strategies in solving missing value proportion problems, and to examine gender differences in strategy use. Fifty-three eighth graders in one school in Reykjavik, Iceland, participated in this study. Twenty-seven females and twenty-six males, were individually interviewed as they solved sixteen missing value proportion problems. The problems represented four semantic structures: Well chunked (W-C), part-part whole (P-P-W), associated sets (A-S), and symbolic (S-P). For each semantic structure there were four problems, each representing a distinct number structures: Integer-integer with an integer answer (I-I-I), integer-noninteger with an integer answer (I-N-I or N-I-I), noninteger-noninteger with an integer answer (N-N-I), or noninteger-noninteger with a noninteger answer (N-N-N). The findings in this study indicate that number structure influenced strategy use and success to a greater extent than semantic type. The easiest problems for students to solve were I-I-I tasks and the most difficult problems were the N-N-N tasks. Most students used multiplicative strategies on the I-I-I problems and I-N-I problems, but resorted to less sophisticated reasoning on the N-N-I and N-N-N problems. No gender differences were identified in the overall success rate. Girls were more successful than boys in associated sets and symbolic problems, and boys were more successful than girls in part-part-whole problems. Girls used less mature strategies for all semantic types except the case of the symbolic type. The data suggest that the semantic type influences females’ choice of strategy more than that of males.

Keywords: Gender differences, Iceland, proportion, ratio, proportional reasoning, problem sequencing, semantic types, teaching and learning proportions.

AMS Subject Classification: 97

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