Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Christine Browning

Second Advisor

Dr. Beverly Morrison

Third Advisor

Dr. William Vande Kopple

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Cheryl Forbes


This study was motivated by the question as to whether women’s and men’s membership in different gender communicative cultures gives rise to gender differentiated ways of talking that are implicated in the failure of a mixed-sex group to achieve good mathematical discourse when women and men sit face to face engaged in various mathematical tasks. If so, in what ways and to what effect is gender discourse implicated in the failure of a mixed-sex group to achieve good mathematical discourse?

Models of feminine and masculine discourse styles based on the theory of communicative cultural difference, as well as a model of good group mathematical discourse, were developed. Codes called "floors” were devised that enabled me to partition the groups’ discourse into nine categories of interactions, thus permitting an analysis of who was doing what and when in the groups. Using the models mentioned above, I applied these floor codes to a combined total of two and a half hours of audio-taped discourse that the two groups produced during a group exam and then examined the gender effects I discovered in the context of the oral and written discourse collected from these two groups throughout the semester. Analysis revealed the type of group interactions in which these gender effects were most likely to manifest themselves and the particular conditions of good mathematical discourse that women and men were most likely to violate.

Women and men were found to be equally responsible for the failure of their groups to achieve good discourse, but in quite different ways due to their membership in different gender communicative cultures:

1. Men had difficulty in achieving intersubjectivity.

2. Women avoided mathematical argumentation for the sake of group harmony and consensus.

3. Women were more likely to defer to the authority in the belief that argumentation disrupts group harmony and consensus.

4. Women’s avoidance of mathematical argumentation exacerbated their feelings of helplessness, especially if they believed that mathematics is a meaningless language game in which outcomes are determined on the basis of authority.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access