Study Finds a Large Gender Perception Gap in Mathematics Abilities

A new study by researchers at Florida State University, finds that girls rate their abilities in mathematics lower than those of boys even when there is no difference between their expertise in the subject.

Lara Perez-Felkner, an assistant professor of higher education and sociology at Florida State University and the lead author of the study, stated, “the argument continues to be made that gender differences in the ‘hard’ sciences is all about ability. But when we hold mathematics ability test scores constant, effectively taking it out of the equation, we see boys still rate their ability higher, and girls rate their ability lower.”

The authors also found that the perception gap in ability by gender is even higher for the brightest students in mathematics. Dr. Perez-Felkner explains the importance of this perception gap by stating that “confidence levels influence the math and science courses students choose later in high school. It influences whether they choose colleges that are strong in certain science majors. It also influences the majors they intend to pursue and the majors they actually declare and continue on with in degrees and potential careers.”

Dr. Perez-Felkner joined the faculty at Florida State University in 2012. She is a graduate of Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, where she majored in psychology. Dr. Perez-Felkner earned a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in comparative human development at the University of Chicago.

The full study, “Gendered Pathways: How Mathematics Ability Beliefs Shape Secondary and Postsecondary Course and Degree Field Choices,” was published on the website of the journal Frontiers in Psychology. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/StudySTEM Fields


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