Students’ mathematical achievement in Iceland, as reported in PISA 2003, showed significant and (by comparison) unusual gender differences in mathematics: Iceland was the only country in which the mathematics gender gap favored girls. When data were broken down and analyzed, the Icelandic gender gap appeared statistically significant only in the rural areas of Iceland, suggesting a question about differences in rural and urban educational communities. In the 2007 qualitative research study reported in this paper, the authors interviewed 19 students from rural and urban Iceland who participated in PISA 2003 in order to investigate these differences and to identify factors that contributed to gender differences in mathematics learning. Students were asked to talk about their mathematical experiences, their thoughts about the PISA results, and their ideas about the reasons behind the PISA 2003 results. The data were transcribed, coded, and analyzed using techniques from analytic induction in order to build themes and to present both male and female student perspectives on the Icelandic anomaly. Strikingly, youth in the interviews focused on social and societal factors concerning education in general rather then on their mathematics education.
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