A recent article in the Monitor on Psychology entitled Math Plus Culture Equal Gender Gap? reviewed the research on gender and math achievement. Gender differences in mathematics has been one of the most debated and lively topics in education psychology. Given the popularity of this topic, a large body of research has been conducted that examines if and what type of gender differences exists in mathematics. Most of the leading researchers agree that if gender differences actually exist, they are small and likely to affect areas of math skills at the highest level of the spectrum. Furthermore, research indicates that there is no reason why women cannot succeed in mathematically demanding fields. Despite these conclusions, women still are underrepresented in math, science and engineering related fields. This discrepancy, in part, could be due to classroom influences starting in elementary school. A study conducted by Martha Carr at the University of Georgia found that in elementary school , boys often utilize memory when learning math facts where as girls of rely on manipulatives, such as counting fingers. These differences in strategies result in girls demonstrating slower math fluency (i.e. the ability to solve math problems quickly) than boys. Therefore, Carr argues that math fluency should be emphasized for all students. In addition, research also suggests that the stereotype that “boys are good in math and girls are good in reading” is still prevalent in many elementary schools. Therefore, it is important to for educators to be aware of their own beliefs about math and gender.
Considering the research findings, experts advise that “its not just the girls who need math help… we need to look toward better math instruction, not just for boys or girls.” This advice seems to be logical given that the research does not support large gender abilities.
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