Graduation Year


Document Type

Master's Thesis


Master of Science



Program Director

Jennifer Lucko, PhD

First Reader

Matthew Davis, PhD

Second Reader

Zoee Bartholomew, EdD


This study seeks to understand the impact of elementary school mathematical identities and mathematics tracking on the identities of women and girls. “Tracking” is an institutionalized education method developed in the 1960s and 1970s in which schools sort their students into smaller class-sized groups based on their observed achievement (Domina et al., 2016). Too often, when students test onto the lower track, they are confronted with a sense of futility and a lack of self-efficacy (Domina, Hanselman, Hwang & McEachin, 2016; Houtte & Stevens, 2015). Further, in STEM disciplines, students who identify as female report lower self-efficacy rates than those who identify as male (Hand et al., 2017). Girls typically form during their elementary school years a dislike and disinterest in mathematics across their academic careers and into adulthood (Tang, 2019; Carter, 2020). This comparative mixed methods study included student surveys with students in kindergarten, and 4th grade, pre-ability-based testing, and interviews with several adults who identify as female, some of whom serve as educators, some who have been tracked, and all of whom have provided mathematics biographies. The central research questions included: (1) How do mathematics placement tests and tracking impact student math identity and self-efficacy? (2) What perceptions do students and professional educators have about ability-based learning groups and tracking? (3) How does mathematics tracking in elementary school impact lifelong mathematical success? The findings show that most children have high self-efficacy in early childhood, and that tracking does matter over time. Lastly, the findings suggest that the self-efficacy of women and girls in mathematics increase through methods of teaching and co-teaching. This study illuminates the mathematical identities of students who identify as women and girls to promote their overall success.

IRB Number