Debunking the Myth That Women Perform at a Lower Level Than Men in College-Level Mathematical Sciences

A common stereotype is that men are better at mathematics than women. But a new study by scholars at the University of Nebraska-Omaha finds that although women often buy into the stereotype, they actually perform just as well as men in college-level statistics.

Researchers found that students with more negative perceptions of their own mathematical ability had lower grades over the course of the semester. But they also found that while men and women scored similarly on exams at the start of the semester, women finished the semester with almost 10 percent higher final exam grades. This was the case even though women had significantly worse attitudes about their mathematical abilities at the start of the semester than their male counterparts.

The authors state “combatting women’s internalization of the inaccurate stereotypes that characterize girls as less equipped for math and science fields than boys, will inevitably prove to be difficult, as these stereotypes are created and reinforced throughout the socialization process, education system, and beyond. Nonetheless, this study shows that women’s self-concept is amenable to change and, regardless, they perform well academically compared to their male counterparts.”

The full study, “A Multi-Level Analysis of the Effects of Statistics Anxiety/Attitudes on Trajectories of Exam Scores,” was published on the website of the Journal of Statistics and Data Science Education. It may be accessed here.


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