Limits...
Gendered Pathways: How Mathematics Ability Beliefs Shape Secondary and Postsecondary Course and Degree Field Choices

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

ABSTRACT

Do mathematics ability beliefs explain gender gaps in the physical science, engineering, mathematics, and computer science fields (PEMC) and other science fields? We leverage U.S. nationally representative longitudinal data to estimate gendered differences in girls' and boys' perceptions of mathematics ability with the most difficult or challenging material. Our analyses examine the potentially interacting effects of gender and these ability beliefs on students' pathways to scientific careers. Specifically, we study how beliefs about ability with challenging mathematics influence girls' and boys' choices to pursue PEMC degrees, evaluating educational milestones over a 6-year period: advanced science course completion in secondary school and postsecondary major retention and selection. Our findings indicate even at the same levels of observed ability, girls' mathematics ability beliefs under challenge are markedly lower than those of boys. These beliefs matter over time, potentially tripling girls' chances of majoring in PEMC sciences, over and above biological science fields, all else being equal. Implications and potential interventions are discussed.

No MeSH data available.


Perceived mathematics ability in 12th grade given objective ranking of mathematics ability.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC5382838&req=5

Figure 2: Perceived mathematics ability in 12th grade given objective ranking of mathematics ability.

Mentions: As shown in Figures 1 and 2, gender differences in perceived mathematics ability in 10th and 12th grades are highly significant (p < 0.001). Across both figures, boys consistently rate their ability more highly than girls do, irrespective of their actual observed ability. The blue dashed line represents boys; girls are represented in red. The largest gender differences are found in 10th grade perceived mathematics ability under challenge. Figure 1 indicates the gender gaps are largest among the least and most talented mathematics students. Girls rate their ability in difficult mathematics systematically lower than boys: the gender difference is 0.29 standard deviations for those at the 50th percentile of observed ability, 0.34 standard deviations for those at the 70th percentile, and 0.24 for those at the 90th percentile. In sum, the gender difference in perceived ability under challenge is wide and demonstrable across all observed ability values, including, most importantly, among those students at the highest levels of ability who demonstrate the highest potential for future careers in mathematics and science. Figure 2 shows a more modest but still highly significant gender difference in perceived ability under challenge (in 12th grade) across the observed ability distribution. Notably, the widest gender difference here is at the top of the ability distribution. Whereas among girls in the 30th through 70th percentiles of observed ability fall between 0.05 and 0.19 standard deviations below boys, at the 90th percentile, 12th grade girls' perceived ability with challenging mathematics is 0.27 standard deviations lower than their male peers. In other words, boys are significantly more confident in challenging mathematics contexts than otherwise identically talented girls. The analyses that follow evaluate the extent to which students' ability beliefs influence students' pursuit of scientific careers in secondary and postsecondary school, and the effect of gender on this relationship.


Gendered Pathways: How Mathematics Ability Beliefs Shape Secondary and Postsecondary Course and Degree Field Choices
Perceived mathematics ability in 12th grade given objective ranking of mathematics ability.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC5382838&req=5

Figure 2: Perceived mathematics ability in 12th grade given objective ranking of mathematics ability.
Mentions: As shown in Figures 1 and 2, gender differences in perceived mathematics ability in 10th and 12th grades are highly significant (p < 0.001). Across both figures, boys consistently rate their ability more highly than girls do, irrespective of their actual observed ability. The blue dashed line represents boys; girls are represented in red. The largest gender differences are found in 10th grade perceived mathematics ability under challenge. Figure 1 indicates the gender gaps are largest among the least and most talented mathematics students. Girls rate their ability in difficult mathematics systematically lower than boys: the gender difference is 0.29 standard deviations for those at the 50th percentile of observed ability, 0.34 standard deviations for those at the 70th percentile, and 0.24 for those at the 90th percentile. In sum, the gender difference in perceived ability under challenge is wide and demonstrable across all observed ability values, including, most importantly, among those students at the highest levels of ability who demonstrate the highest potential for future careers in mathematics and science. Figure 2 shows a more modest but still highly significant gender difference in perceived ability under challenge (in 12th grade) across the observed ability distribution. Notably, the widest gender difference here is at the top of the ability distribution. Whereas among girls in the 30th through 70th percentiles of observed ability fall between 0.05 and 0.19 standard deviations below boys, at the 90th percentile, 12th grade girls' perceived ability with challenging mathematics is 0.27 standard deviations lower than their male peers. In other words, boys are significantly more confident in challenging mathematics contexts than otherwise identically talented girls. The analyses that follow evaluate the extent to which students' ability beliefs influence students' pursuit of scientific careers in secondary and postsecondary school, and the effect of gender on this relationship.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

ABSTRACT

Do mathematics ability beliefs explain gender gaps in the physical science, engineering, mathematics, and computer science fields (PEMC) and other science fields? We leverage U.S. nationally representative longitudinal data to estimate gendered differences in girls' and boys' perceptions of mathematics ability with the most difficult or challenging material. Our analyses examine the potentially interacting effects of gender and these ability beliefs on students' pathways to scientific careers. Specifically, we study how beliefs about ability with challenging mathematics influence girls' and boys' choices to pursue PEMC degrees, evaluating educational milestones over a 6-year period: advanced science course completion in secondary school and postsecondary major retention and selection. Our findings indicate even at the same levels of observed ability, girls' mathematics ability beliefs under challenge are markedly lower than those of boys. These beliefs matter over time, potentially tripling girls' chances of majoring in PEMC sciences, over and above biological science fields, all else being equal. Implications and potential interventions are discussed.

No MeSH data available.