The year 2000 calculus tertiary entrance examination in Western Australia: Roles for a graphics calculator and achievement by gender
Faculty of Computing, Health and Science
School of Engineering and Mathematics
In this paper we report results of our study of gender-related effects and the use of graphics calculators in the year 2000 Western Australian Calculus Tertiary Entrance Examination (TEE). Background to our inquiry is that mean total scores on the examination for 1995-2000, three years prior to and three years after the inclusion of graphics calculators on it, show that since 1996 girls' mean performance has been superior to that of boys. At the same time, participation in TEE Calculus has declined by nearly ten percent from 1995 to 2000, with most of the decline attributable to fewer females choosing to study the subject. Our in-depth study of the questions from the 2000 examination shows that in most individual questions where girls do better than boys the role for technology is limited and the skills called upon for successful solution are largely analytic. We illustrate our findings with data for two questions that highlight differences in performance between students of each gender on analytic parts and parts involving calculator graphing, routine and non-routine graphical interpretation. We also categorise and link to performance by gender the different roles that graphics calculators could have played across all questions in the examination, for example, for checking, for computation, or for providing a graph to allow an integrated visual-algebraic approach to problem solving.