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The Gender Gap in Mathematics

Running head: THE GENDER GAP IN MATHEMATICS The Gender Gap in Mathematics THE GENDER GAP IN MATHEMATICS 2 A gender gap is defined by Dictionary. com as the discrepancy in opportunities, statuses, and attitudes between men and women (2012). According to author Xie of articles “Math Gender Gap Gone In Grade School, Persists In College,” the gender gap in mathematics was substantially larger in the past than that of today’s gender gap in the same subject. Girls were not encouraged to take courses in the fields of math and science because of the strong stereotype that boys were Just more intelligent than irls in those areas.

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So, of course, girls opted to take fewer of those courses once they got to high school and college. Now that we are in the twenty-first century, the time has come to rethink this gender gap and see if we have made any improvements (Xie, 2008). The college preparation of the females over the past sixty years has greatly improved, write authors Niederle and Vesterlund. The authors state that the gender gap in college has recently tremendously decreased. The high school females have been outscoring the high school males in many subjects, but males still tend to erform better in the subject of mathematics.

The average differences of test scores between males and females are quite small, but more males are at the right end of the bell-shaped curve (Niederle & Vesterlund, 2010). Author Xie writes that in the past, it was proven that more boys were choosing to take math courses in school than girls. Due to more boys being in these classes, the results between the genders were skewed. More boys were scoring higher in math because they were taking the classes. In more recent studies, the classes were evenly distributed between boys and girls.

Because of the even distribution of genders, the test THE GENDER GAP IN MATHEMATICS 3 results were much closer between the boys and girls. In fact, there was very little difference. The variance, however, was larger for boys than it was for girls. Of the students who scored in the 99th percentile, 67 percent were boys (Xie, 2008). This leads to the question: why do males differ so much from females? In the early years of a person’s schooling, there are no mean differences between boys and girls in mathematics.

Over the first six years of schooling, however, females tend to lose an verage of two-tenths of a standard deviation relative to males, according to documents from studies by Fryer and Levitt across the nation. There are many possible causes of this epidemic. These include less investment in mathematics by females, small expectations by parents, gender-biased tests, and pressures from society (Fryer & Levitt, Because fewer females are enrolled in mathematics classes than boys, they invest less time and effort in the learning of the material.

Disinterest in the subject causes lower test results, and a gap between the genders of males and females attitudes nd opportunities (Fryer & Levitt, 2009). Niederle writes: Other possible reason for the different compensation choices of men and women may be that they differ in their attitudes toward risk and feedback on relative performance… Our results show that women shy away from competition while men embrace it and this difference is explained by gender differences in confidence and in attitudes toward competition (2010). Expectations from parents dealing with math are lower for girls than boys. Parents report equal amounts of times in both their sons and daughters, but as a result these articular reports have no effect, positive or negative, on the gender gap, so are not a factor in the cause of the gap (Fryer & Levitt, 2009). When it comes to tests favoritism of genders, more boys scoring higher than girls on the exam may not necessarily mean that they are smarter than girls; it could Just mean that the quality of the exam is not up to par.

None of the questions on this exam require higher order or strategic thinking; the exam simply required the student to recall basic information. Being able to memorize and recall facts does not make one student any more intelligent than another (Xie, 2008). The National Center for Education Statistics held research that resulted in statistics about data that required the higher level and strategic thinking. The results proved the gender gap to be quite small. This study proves that women are capable of being Just as intelligent in the field of mathematics as men.

In early grade school, the gender gap is nonexistent, but once the pressures of society and the stereotypes of social inequality catches up with women, the difficulty of staying in those fields catches up with them as well (Xie, 2008). Some researchers say males are more inept because they are more eveloped in spatial skills, giving them an advantage in math. This theory has been taken back as far as evolutionary foundation when males had to hunt which required more spatial skills than female Jobs.

The gender gap may be explained by the different ways that male and females respond to competitive test-taking environments (Niederle & vesterlund, 2010). THE GENDER GAP IN MATHEMATICS 5 One group of researchers says that females are socialized into believing that mathematics is not important, practical, useful, or even possible. Fryer and Levitt write that math is not part of the identity of a female (2009). Females tend to shy away from competition.

Because of the way tests are given and rewards are allocated in an academic competition, there is reason to believe that females are not capable of seeing their full potential and the ability to have that potential be recognized by society. Females have been discovered not unwilling or unable to perform in competitions, but rather that they Just do not compete well in competition among males (Niederle & Vesterlund, 2010). On average, the number of bachelor’s degrees in fields that require a large amount of math awarded to men is still higher tnan tne numDer awaraea to women. men 00 receive aoout nalT 0T tne Dacnelor’s degrees in the field of mathematics. Though this is a positive improvement, women still are underestimated and underrepresented in mathematics related careers (Xie, 2008). The gender gap continues on into the working class (Xie, 2008). Alice Park, author of the article “The Myth of the Math Gender Gap,” writes her theory of why the gender gap stereotype is so strong. Park states that Janet Hyde, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin, says the problem begins with parents and teachers because they each still believe in this gender gap.

This altered view of life may be exactly what is keeping girls from pursuing a career in math (Park, 2008). The next step should be to attract more women into the mathematics field of study. The mathematics and science departments need to be made more available and THE GENDER GAP IN MATHEMATICS 6 accessible to not only female students but also female faculty. We need more women in the mathematics field to serve as positive role models for future generations of female students (Park, 2008). In order to combat the gender gap in mathematics, parents must be more aware of this issue and become more involved in their aughters’ lives.

Test creators must also be aware of the problem, and construct the tests to insure that they are gender equitable. The shifting of the way society thinks will be a long-term process, so until then educators must begin teaching girls earlier that they are capable of being successful in their mathematical endeavors (Fryer & Levitt, 2009). I believe that this gender gap in mathematics is a real issue educators are facing today. Somehow females have been wired to believe that males are superior to them in the subject of mathematics, and that is simply not the case (Niederle & Vesterlund, 2010).

This issue of the gender gap is commonly overlooked, and most schools are doing nothing to combat this significant problem (Fryer & Levitt, 2009). I blame society for the existence of the gender gap in mathematics. If society did not create the stereotypes that women are flat out less intelligent than men in this field, then we would have more women continuing with it. As a pre-service teacher, I want to be sure my students know that this stereotype is Just that: a stereotype. It should not exist. I want to make my students aware that they, boy or girl, can be successful in the mathematics field.

I also want to make sure that my class is not centered around basic recall information. I want to challenge my students to THE GENDER GAP IN MATHEMATICS 7 higher level strategic thinking. The students should leave my classroom knowing that they can succeed in mathematics no matter what society tells them (Xie, 2008). In conclusion, the late education researcher Myra Sadker said it best: “If the cure for cancer was in the mind of a girl, we might never discover it. ” So teachers should educate their students, giving equal attention and opportunities for success (Robison, 2012).

This marks a difference between a teacher and an educator. THE GENDER GAP IN MATHEMATICS References 8 Fryer, Jr, Roland G. & Levitt, Steven D. (2009). An empirical analysis of the gender gap mathematics. NBER working paper no. 1 5430. Retrieved from National Bureau in of Economic Research. http://www. nber. org/papers/wl Dlctlonary. com Retrlevea Trom nttp://01ctlonary. reTerence. com/Drowse/genaer+gap? s=t Niederle, Muriel & Vesterlund, Lise. (2010) Explaining the gender gap in math test scores: the role of competition. Journal of Economic Perspectives Volume 24, Number 2, 129-144. Retrieved from Stanford University Database. tp:// www. stanford. edu/??”niederle/NV. JEP. pdf Park, Alice. (2008) The myth of the math gender gap. Retrieved from TIME. http://www. time. com/time/health/article/ Robison, Mark. (2012) Gender gap: encouraging girls in science and math helps the community. Reno Rebirth. Retrieved from http:// blogs. rgJ. com/renorebirth/2012/10/27/gender-gap-encouraging-girls-in-science- and- math-helps-the-community/ Xie, Yun. (2008) Math gender gap gone in grade school, persists in college. Retrieved from Ars Technica. http://arstechnica. com/ uncategorized/2008/07/the-vanishing-gender-gap- in-math/

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