Gender Gap in Mathematics

There has been a gender gap in national mathematics tests between boys and girls.

The achievement gap for males and females in mathematics is interesting in that girls typically have better grades in math classes, but tend to score lower on standardized math tests . NAEP testing shows that these gaps are practically non-existent at young ages (i.e. elementary school), but that they increase greatly with age. The differences in NAEP math scores between boys and girls nearly double from the 9-year olds to the 17-year olds tests. Other tests that follow the trend for males doing better than females include AP Calculus Exams and the math portion of the SAT . Although there are no physiological differences between males and females to attribute these gaps, research urges that mathematical problem solving abilities can be equally attained, undeterred by gender, given certain circumstances. It is proposed that to close these gaps, positive attitudes towards mathematics must be encouraged, gender stereotypes must be decreased, and students must have role models and mathematical career options available and prevalent. The biggest challenge of these three criteria is the affect of gender stereotyping in the classroom. Mathematics and science are oftentimes thought of as masculine subjects while English and history are seen as feminine subjects. With this mindset it follows that females often live up to this expectation and excelle only in the liberal arts. It is supported by research that gender stereotypes, in turn, decrease mathematical self-esteem among many females and that this leads to anxiety in mathematical exams. The overall achievement gap therefore increases with the age of students because of the gradual decline of self-esteem throughout the grades. It follows that when females have role models in the mathematics field and are shown multiple career options for the content, then girls are more likely to succeed and overcome gender stereotyping .

At least one study has challenged the existence of the gender gap in mathematics. In 2008 Janet Hyde and others published a study showing that male and female students did equally well on No Child Left Behind standardized tests. Hyde believes that the SAT score gap may be due to bias sampling.

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