The importance of mathematics is so high that UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) named the year 2000 as the year of mathematics. Mathematics is one of the essential and effective subjects that dominate students’ educational performance and occupational future. Its instinctive beauty and different applications, has greatly attracted global attention. The international Association for Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) has explored the students’ mathematics performance from many countries around the world using the Trend in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) test. As a member state of IEA association, Islamic Republic of Iran has participated in this test in 1995, 1999, 2003, 2007, and 2011, and has achieved the 38th rank among 41 countries, the 31st rank among 33 nations, the 31st rank among 46 countries, the 29th rank among 49 countries, and the 32nd rank among 42 countries, respectively (
1). Kiamanesh emphasized on the Iranian students’ mathematical under-achievement with respect to TIMSS findings. An important and significant implication of the teaching and learning processes is the poor performance of the Iranian students during five EIA examinations ( 2). In this regard, one can refer to the studies by Pahlavan Sadegh ( 3), and Nasr Isfahani ( 4). Mathematical self-efficacy may be expressed as an important factor on mathematical performance. In their studies, Pahlavan Sadegh ( 3), Nasr Isfahani ( 4), Kabiri ( 5), Pajares et al. ( 6), Pirhosseinloo ( 7) and Wilkins et al., ( 8) reported direct and indirect effect of mathematical self-efficacy on mathematical achievement. Mathematical self-efficacy could be defined as evaluation of individuals’ confidence in their abilities to successful performance or completion of duty or solving a certain mathematical problem ( 9, 10). Mathematical self-concept is an important variable in mathematical achievement. Several independent investigations conducted by, Pahlavan Sadegh ( 3), Nasr Isfahani ( 4), Wilkins ( 8), Pajares et al. ( 6), confirmed the effective role of mathematical self-concept on mathematical achievement ( 10). It may be implied that learning and educational achievement among individuals are governed by the complex conditions composed of various elements with specific impacts. The existing individual and gender-related differences are considered as elements that play their roles in learning mathematics and personal learning environment. Learning climate, also occasionally called learning situation (1) and learning context (2), is a general term referring to several aspects of training centers. Classroom learning climate refers to an area or situation in which learners and teacher may interact with each other using various information tools and sources in order to pursue their learning activities ( 11). At present, many studies regarding perceived learning climate show the positive perception toward learning context. This may improve cognitive outcome, create positive attitude in classroom, and increase learners’ satisfaction ( 12, 13). Some of these studies focused on cognitive classroom environment, measurement of effective cultural factors on classroom learning, learning context in the countries with enriched technology, as well as surveys carried out on different learning contexts in various countries ( 12, 13). Many studies concerned the role of students` gender in the studied variables; some suggested no association ( 3), while some others reported a relationship between them ( 4). The Nasr Isfahani indicated that in primary schools, male and female showed the same level of confidence, but regarding high schools, the male students showed higher degree of confidence than female ones ( 4). In his study, Razavieh concluded that mathematical educational performance was better among female than male students. In his survey, Keramati reported a positively significant relationship between mathematical self-efficacy and benefiting from mathematics lesson, but no significant difference was observed regarding gender. Other study indicated that mathematical self-efficacy expectations in male academic students are stronger than those of their female counterparts and in another study, they found that male students acquired higher scores in self-efficacy. Compared to females, male students evaluated mathematics as more helpful and showed better attitude toward mathematics and were more confident about their capabilities in mathematics. According to Wakins and Slocum, investigation on the role of gender in ideas about mathematical and computer self-efficacy suggested that the rate of beliefs in the mathematical and computer perceived self-efficacy was higher among male teens than in female adolescents ( 14).
On the other hand, Pajares and Graham (
10) stated that in general, a difference could be found between the sense of self-efficacy and the field of mathematics on one hand, and natural sciences in both genders especially across racial minorities on the other hand. In this regard, blacks compared to Caucasians and also female to male exhibited a lower sense of self efficacy ( 10). Geary studied the relationship between social support and self-efficacy and research habits in the natural sciences subject and their comparison among female and male students. The result showed a positive significant relationship between the elements of research habits (cohesiveness, control, and memorizing contents) and educational self-efficacy in the natural sciences subject plus subscale of social support (family and others) ( 15). The studies conducted on self-concept and genders produced different results. Several investigations showed that male academic and school students in primary and high schools exhibited higher level of mathematical self-concept than their female fellows ( 6). Similarly, the studies by Mull, Scott, Martin, and Khalili indicated that female acquire higher scores in mathematics self-concept than male, a condition encouraging female students further by their teachers. Additionally, female are more sociable than male and are influenced more than male. Consequently, their self-concept is more affected by classroom climate than male. The results of surveys by Rohani showed a higher self-concept in female than male ( 16). Likewise, other studies suggested no difference between genders in mathematical self-concept. Of these studies, one could refer to the investigation by Pajares and Graham, who found no difference in mathematical self-concept among female and male at the end of academic year ( 10). Over the past two decades, gender related differences have been the major subject of the studies. The studies mainly indicated that male's mathematical achievement was higher than those of the female. The reason for this difference was higher self-efficacy among the male than female students ( 17). On the contrary, another study indicated that female were superior to male regarding the mathematical achievement score ( 4). Many studies considered male’ superiority over female regarding their confidence to learn mathematics and this difference might be still observed even when female presented better reason for the feeling of confidence based on their performance ( 18). Other study examined gender-related differences in documents, self-efficacy, and mathematical achievement in sample contained 62 fourth graders. The findings of this investigation showed a significant difference in the variable of mathematical achievement in favor of male, while there was no significant difference in the variable of self-efficacy between male and female. In a similar study carried out by Davis et al. on gender differences in language/math self-concept and achievement among the adults by means of route analysis method, no significant difference was observed among the two variables of mathematical self-concept and mathematical achievement between the two genders ( 18). In another investigation, no significant difference was observed among the female and male in terms of mathematical self-efficacy and achievement ( 19).