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Durham University

School of Education

Research Projects


A research project of the School of Education.


Women’s under-representation in areas of key economic importance is a constraining factor for women’s contribution to the resolution of critical societal problems. Women’s under-representation in sciences and engineering on the one hand, and the recognition for gendered sensitive educational practices in mathematics education on the other, have been concerns in Western Societies for some time now.


PREMA’s orientation was on girls’ performance with school maths, with particular focus on the dynamic and complex relationship between girls’ motivation and socio-cultural milieu. The project’s overall objective was the deepening of understanding on socio-cultural and pedagogic factors that impede upon girls’ performance and engagement in mathematics which consequently influence career choices. In the project, this was addressed through a reflective discourse with experts in the area of mathematics and gender, an on-going discussion with practitioners, and seven empirical research studies. The project concluded with the articulation of self-reflective tools for the promotion and support of gender sensitive teaching/learning processes.

PREMA investigated into patrimonial factors; an analysis of the current position; pupils/students performances and their views and perceptions on mathematics; teachers’ reflections on teaching and perceptions on gendered educational practices as well as on the position of policy makers on gender sensitive education. Empirical research actions of both qualitative and quantitative nature were carried out in Austria, France, Greece, Poland, Spain and UK.


The empirical evidence from the conduct of multiple studies in the project’s six country context suggest that differences in the take-up of STEM can not be attributed to poorer performances by girls in school mathematics in the compulsory phase of education. The results indicate that in some countries, the lower take up of STEM by women is part of a larger problem of the decreasing take up of STEM by all pupils/students. It becomes therefore imperative for educational systems to monitor the attainment and take up of STEM by males and females alike, and in parallel to introduce reforms so as to ensure sexist-free curriculum and teaching practices.


Project findings point to the direction that the socio-cultural construction of mathematics varies a great deal across countries. Construction of mathematics as masculine however is not associated with lower attainment by girls at school, or with lower entry to university courses. While socio-cultural factors are hard to change some may well be amenable to influence from policy makers and practitioners. Information about the take up of STEM by women, and information about successful women practitioners may well have an effect as part of career guidance. Information about successful women mathematicians can be easily included in mathematics lessons.

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From the School of Education

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