What effect does the introduction of graphics calculators have on the performance of boys and girls in assessment in tertiary entrance calculus?
Taylor and Francis
Faculty of Computing, Health and Science
School of Engineering and Mathematics
The paper reports an investigation of gender-related effects in the Western Australian Calculus Tertiary Entrance Examinations for the period 1995–2000, three years before and three years after graphics calculators were introduced. Consideration is given to students' total examination scores, scores on questions grouped by curriculum component and students' actual use of graphics calculators on two questions from the year 2000 examination. Results show that over the six-year period the performance of girls—on the examination as a whole and in most curriculum components—was superior to that of boys at the lower end of the achievement scale, while boys recorded the best performance at the top end of the scale. The results are partially explained by the participation rate in calculus for girls being lower than that for boys. Where superior performance is recorded for girls it is frequently attributable to competence with analytic methods. Superior performance favouring boys typically occurred on questions where diagram played a role in the solution.