Colorwheel Toys

Research on Girls in STEM

Posted on: February 21, 2012

We’ve been looking at a lot of the research on girls engagement in STEM and what helps and what doesn’t. Below are some selected quotes from papers that we’ve found and paper that have been recommended to us by researchers and educators.

Why So Few?

“One finding shows that girls who believe that intelligence can expand with experience and learning tend to do better on math tests; these girls are also more likely to say they want to continue to study math in the future. That is, believing in the potential for intellectual growth, in and of itself, improves outcomes. A “growth mindset” is helpful for all students, but it is particularly important for girls in mathematics, where negative stereotypes about girls’ abilities persist. By encouraging a “growth mindset,” teachers and parents can encourage girls’ achievements and interest in math and science.”

“When test administrators tell students that girls and boys are equally capable in math, however, the difference in performance essentially disappears, illustrating that changes in the learning environment can improve girls’ achievements in math.”

“Research profiled in this report shows that negative stereotypes about girls’ abilities in math can indeed measurably lower girls’ test performance. Researchers have also documented how stereotypes can lower girls’ aspirations for science and engineering careers over time. When test administrators tell students that girls and boys are equally capable in math, however, the difference in performance essentially disappears, illustrating that changes in the learning environment can improve girls’ achievements in math.”

“Research profiled in the report finds that girls assess their mathematical abilities lower than do boys with similar mathematical achievements. At the same time, girls hold themselves to a higher standard than boys do in subjects like math, believing that they have to be exceptional to succeed in “male” fields. One result of girls’ lower self-assessment of their math ability—even in the face of good grades and test scores—and their higher standards for performance is that fewer girls than boys aspire to STEM careers.”

All of these findings agree with what we have personally experienced and what we have found from talking to many parents, educators, and children.

Mathematics Self-Efficacy, Ethnic Identity, Gender, and Career Interests Related to Mathematics and Science

“In addition, as hypothesized, gender directly predicted students’ career interests in science and engineering.”

“it is known that adolescent girls tend to perform better in mathematics classes that encourage cooperative rather than competitive learning (Hyde, 1993).”

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