MADISON, Wis., Oct. 13 (UPI) — Men and women have equal skills in math, something widely accepted among social scientists, but not by parents and teachers, U.S. researchers said.
Chief author Janet Hyde, a professor of psychology and women’s studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says the meta-analysis involved looked systematically at 242 articles that assessed the math skills of 1,286,350 people from 1990 to 2007.
Hyde and colleagues looked at students in grade school to college and beyond. A second portion examined the results of several large, long-term scientific studies, including the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
The meta-analysis, published in the journal Psychological Bulletin, finds in both cases, the difference in math skills between the two sexes was so small as to be meaningless.
Nonetheless, teachers and parents often guide girls away from math-heavy sciences and engineering classes, Hyde says.
“Parents and teachers give little implicit messages about how good they expect kids to be at different subjects and that powerfully affects their self-concept of their ability,” Hyde says in a statement. “There is lots of evidence that what we call ‘stereotype threat’ can hold women back in math. If, before a test, you imply that the women should expect to do a little worse than the men, that hurts performance. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
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