Skip to main content


06 / 01 / 2018

The Myth That Only Brilliant People Are Good at Math and Its Implications for Diversity

Education Sciences


Abstract: A common misconception about math is that it requires raw intellectual talent or “brilliance.” Only students who possess this sort of brilliance are assumed to be capable of success in math-related subjects. This harmful myth has far-reaching consequences for the success of girls and children from ethnic-minority backgrounds in these subjects. Because women and minorities are stereotyped as lacking brilliance, the myth that success in math requires this trait is a barrier that students from these groups have to overcome. In the first part of this paper, we detail the pervasiveness of this myth and explore its relation to gender and race gaps in math and beyond. In the second part, we highlight some potential sources of this myth in children’s everyday experiences and offer some strategies for debunking it.

03 / 11 / 2015

Expectations of brilliance underlie gender distributions across academic disciplines



Abstract: Some scientific disciplines have lower percentages of women in academia than others. Leslie et al. hypothesized that general attitudes about the discipline would reflect the representation of women in those fields. Surveys revealed that some fields are believed to require attributes such as brilliance and genius, whereas other fields are believed to require more empathy or hard work. In fields where people thought that raw talent was required, academic departments had lower percentages of women.

02 / 12 / 2014

Ability and Mathematics: the mindset revolution that is reshaping education



Abstract: Recent scientific evidence demonstrates both the incredible potential of the brain to grow and change and the powerful impact of growth mindset messages upon students’ attainment. Schooling practices, however, particularly in England, are based upon notions of fixed ability thinking which limits students’ attainment and increases inequality. This article reviews evidence for brain plasticity, the importance of mindset and the ways that mindset messages may be communicated through classroom and
grouping practices.