UH Curriculum Research & Development Group researcher awarded $202,089 grant

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Helen Au, (808) 956-4949
Curriculum Research & Development Group
Posted: Apr 3, 2006

HONOLULU — Dr. Judith Olson, researcher for the Curriculum Research & Development Group (CRDG) at UH Mānoa, along with Dr. Melfried Olson and Claire Okazaki, have been awarded a research grant from the National Science Foundation Directorate for Education and Human Resources. Their proposal, "The Role of Gender in Language Used by Children and Parents Working on Mathematical Tasks," received a three-year award for $202,089.

The three-year research project, to be conducted during fiscal years 2005-2008, will involve investigating gender-related differences in the language and behaviors observed among third and fourth-grade children and their parents who are working together on mathematical tasks.

The tasks that have been piloted during Year 1 of the project will use various strategies to foster intense interaction between parents and children. Once the study gets underway in September 2006, each of the child-parent pairs will be videotaped as they are working on three mathematical tasks: number and operations, geometry, and algebraic reasoning.

The videotapes will be coded to determine gender-related differences in how parents and children talk about mathematics. As the subjects work on each task, investigators will use various techniques to secure needed information for identifying gender-related differences in how language is used. These techniques for assessing gender variations range from counting the number of conceptual questions asked to the respective reliance of males and females to use specific mathematical terms.

The theoretical framework for this study is based on prior research on how gender factors can affect children‘s self-confidence about their mathematical abilities, as well as how parents feel about their competence. Moreover, the theoretical framework considers how these beliefs are translated into the language that is used. Investigators will gather data in these areas of study for four family dyads: daughter-mother, son-mother, daughter-father, son-father.

The researchers hope that their findings will provide an invaluable tool for parents and their children in the educational process. They believe that more effective forms of communication will enhance a better understanding of the role that gender-related language difference play in the process of learning mathematics. Once the study is completed, investigators plan to use the findings to develop recommendations that will ultimately help parents and children talk about mathematics in ways that encourage girls, in particular, to pursue academic study and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Research in this field has traditionally been limited by assumptions that were made about well-educated, middle-class professionals rather than a broader population of underrepresented working class families with diverse ethnic backgrounds. This research is an attempt to bridge the gap in knowledge about variations in language patterns based on the particular gender and demographics of the families involved.

About the Curriculum Research & Development Group (CRDG)
The Curriculum Research & Development Group (CRDG) is an organized research unit in the College of Education at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa since 1966. CRDG has served the educational community locally, nationally, and internationally by conducting research and creating, evaluating, disseminating, and supporting educational programs that serve students, teachers, and other educators in grades preK-12; and contributing to the body of professional knowledge and practice in teaching and learning, curriculum development, program dissemination and implementation, evaluation and assessment and school improvement.

CRDG operates the University Laboratory School (ULS), a public charter school as its R & D laboratory under an agreement with the local school board. ULS provides a K-12 student population in a controlled environment where CRDG faculty conducts its research and development work. Additionally, ULS serves as a demonstration site for improving K-12 education while providing a high quality education for its approximately 420 students. The students, randomly selected from among applicants to represent a broad cross section of the state population, provide real-world data on ways all students can succeed.

Since its founding, CRDG has been an integral part of the education community. A research model that combines cutting-edge thinking with real-world application has continued to add to the body of professional knowledge while bringing a large cross-section of the education community into the research process.