Mr. Kline's Mathematics

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Archive for the category “Research”

Why aren’t women as well represented as men in math related fields?

study recently came out which was entitled “Can stereotype threat explain the gender gap in mathematics performance and achievement?”. One of the authors created and posted a video describing the paper, which you can view here.

As a preview, there seem to be four main points of the paper and the video:

  1. The papers on stereotype threat normalize with respect to SAT scores which is bad.
  2. Evidence for stereotype threat is therefore weak.
  3. We should therefore stop putting all of our resources into combating stereotype threat.
  4. We should instead do something easy like combating stereotypes themselves.

Before we go into the details of the paper, we need a bit of context. For that reason, this post is split into three parts. The first addresses a meta-issue, namely that of the “null hypothesis” in this discussion. A frustration that I have, and that I think is shared by many of the women I know in math, is that the (often unspoken) working hypothesis is that in fact women are just not as talented, and it is somehow up to us women to prove this otherwise, presumably by convincing men that we’re geniuses.
The authors of the above paper fall prey to this disingenuous line of thought, by proclaiming stereotype threat is an insufficient explanation but not offering any alternative explanations. This sets up a kind of implied false dichotomy: if it isn’t explained by such and such, it must mean girls are dumb.

Read rest here.  Women in math


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