PSYCH: Women and Math

From: Chris Rasch (
Date: Sat Feb 24 2001 - 06:36:09 MST

Perhaps a partial explanation for why there are so few extropian

How Negative Expectancies and Attitudes Undermine Females'
Math Confidence and Performance: A Review of the Literature
Jennifer Gutbezahl

There is a common belief that females are less mathematically capable
than males. This belief is fairly constant across populations (see
e.g. Eccles, 1987). Classroom studies have shown that this belief is
in place by the time children enter the third grade (Crawford,
Herrmann, Holdsworth, Randall & Robbins, 1989). This belief is
mirrored by students' parents. By the time children enter
kindergarten, parents expect girls to do better at verbal tasks and
boys to do better at math (Lummis & Stevenson, 1990). This belief
continues through elementary school (Entwistle & Baker, 1983) and on
throughout the academic process (Hyde & Linn, 1988; Yee & Eccles,

This belief is not entirely unfounded. Although evidence from the many
studies performed on gender differences in mathematics is
inconsistent, small but statistically significant differences are the
norm (see Feingold, 1988; Hyde, Fennema & Lamon, 1990; Lubinski &
Benbow, 1992; Maccoby & Jacklin, 1974 for some reviews of the
literature). These between-gender differences are generally quite
small compared to variability within each gender. Furthermore, these
differences are becoming smaller over time (Linn & Hyde, 1989). There
are no significant differences between boys' and girls' math
achievement in elementary school, and few differences at any age
(Feingold, 1988; NAEP, 1983; Shipman, Krantz & Silver, 1992). Although
these differences are small, parents and teachers often expect large
discrepancies between boys' and girls' performance in math
class. Because others' expectations can have a strong influence on
one's attitudes (Tocci & Engelhard, 1991; Triandis, 1971; Zimbardo &
Ebbersen, 1970) and behavior (Snyder, 1979; Snyder & Swann, 1978),
parents' and teachers' negative expectations put girls at a distinct
disadvantage in the classroom.

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