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Early Support from Parents and Teachers Essential for Math Performance in Girls

For the past 50 years, there has been a significant interest in the research community regarding why male students perform better than female students at higher levels of mathematics. When Dr. Gunderson and others were at the University of Chicago, they published a great report on the impact  of parents’ and teachers’ gender related stereotypes on the performance of girls in math. They stated these stereotypes impact girls’ math course selections and pursuit of math related career paths.

This report mainly focuses on parents and teachers and suggests that they have significant impact on children’s academic attitudes and performance.

The report focuses on three main arguments relating to students in America:

1. Adults (parents and teachers) have their own anxiety about math and thinking that math ability is a fixed trait and not a growth trait.
2. Children get influenced as early as preschool. Early negative math attitudes in girls have long lasting impact on girls’ selection of math courses as well as their pursuit of STEM related careers.
3. The impact of parents’ and teachers’ attitude towards math and how it translates to children’s attitude and stereotypes.

Overall this report does a nice job of showing how negative math attitude impacts girls, causing most not to pursue advanced studies in math and math related careers. The report also clearly provides a lot of evidence and examples on how stereotypes and mindsets of parents and teachers damage girls’ math mindsets more than they damage boys’ mindsets.

The Role of Parents and Teachers in the Development of Gender-Related Math Attitudes by Elizabeth A. Gunderson, Gerardo Ramirez, Susan C. Levine, and Sian L. Beilock


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