Determining Differential Item Functioning in Mathematics Word Problems Using Item Response Theory

Determining Differential Item Functioning in Mathematics Word Problems Using Item Response Theory

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Determining Differential Item Functioning in Mathematics Word Problems Using Item Response Theory

Mathematics word-problem test was evaluated for differential item functioning (DIF) using Item Response Theory One-Parameter Logistic model. The test measured skills in application of one to two steps basic math operations, computation skills involving fraction, percentage, ratio, proportion, and complex analysis involving two or more steps in complicated problem solving. It was administered to 1925 Grade Six pupils in six mixed-gender private schools and three all-girl schools in the Philippines. Results revealed that the focal group (girls in gender-based DIF, girls in mixed-gender schools in school-type-based DIF) was disadvantaged in most of the items. The item characteristic curves showed remarkable differences between the test performances of the comparison groups. Focus group discussions and interviews with the participants confirmed DIF items and revealed the causes of gender-based and school-type-based DIF. DIF in favor of each gender showed agreement with the sex-role stereotypes, DIF in favor of each school type conformed to the findings of earlier studies about differences in the experiences of the girls in the all-girl schools and their counterparts in the mixed-gender schools. Recommendations include reviewing test item writing procedures in mathematics word-problems, and creating better test evaluation practices to ensure fair tests and assessments.Key Concepts: Differential Item Functioning, Item Response Theory, Focal Group, Reference Group

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