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This study addressed children's perceptions and explanations of verbal and cognitive intelligence. A group of primary-school children (N = 119) from the second, the fourth, and the sixth grades were asked to choose the best pupils of their respective classes in their mother tongue (native language) and mathematics and to give reasons for their choices. In the mother tongue, the children tended to favor their own gender in their choices, and boys and girls were chosen as the best pupils quite evenly. In mathematics, the boys selected only boys from the second grade on, while the girls started selecting mostly boys from the fourth grade on only. In the mother tongue the consensus was low, and the choices were explained by referring to the pupil's positive classroom behavior and appropriate work habits. But in mathematics the consensus was high, and the choices were explained by referring to the formal academic recognition that the best pupil had attained and to the speed and correctness of his/her performance. These findings seemed to suggest that mathematical ability is personified as a masculine domain and that our culture's gender-bound representation of mathematical ability may well be inherent to the routines of the school institution.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2004-01-01

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