The Role of Parents and Teachers in the Development of Gender-Related Math Attitudes

Abstract

Girls tend to have more negative math attitudes, including gender stereotypes, anxieties, and self-concepts, than boys. These attitudes play a critical role in math performance, math course-taking, and the pursuit of math-related career paths. We review existing research, primarily from U.S. samples, showing that parents’ and teachers’ expectancies for children’s math competence are often gender-biased and can influence children’s math attitudes and performance. We then propose three new directions for future research on the social transmission of gender-related math attitudes. First, parents’ and teachers’ own math anxieties and their beliefs about whether math ability is a stable trait may prove to be significant influences on children’s math attitudes. Second, a developmental perspective that investigates math attitudes at younger ages and in relation to other aspects of gender development, such as gender rigidity, may yield new insights into the development of math attitudes. Third, investigating the specific behaviors and mannerisms that form the causal links between parents’ and teachers’ beliefs and children’s math attitudes may lead to effective interventions to improve children’s math attitudes from a young age. Such work will not only further our understanding of the relations between attitudes and performance, but will lead to the development of practical interventions for the home and classroom that ensure that all students are provided with opportunities to excel in math.

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Acknowledgement

This research was supported by the NSF Science of Learning Center Grant SBE 0541957, the Spatial Intelligence and Learning Center (SILC), to Susan Levine and Sian Beilock; by NSF CAREER DRL-0746970 to Sian Beilock; and by the National Center for Education Research Grant Number R305C050076 to Elizabeth Gunderson and Gerardo Ramirez.

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Correspondence to Sian L. Beilock.

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Gunderson, E.A., Ramirez, G., Levine, S.C. et al. The Role of Parents and Teachers in the Development of Gender-Related Math Attitudes. Sex Roles 66, 153–166 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-011-9996-2

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Keywords

  • Math attitudes
  • Gender stereotypes
  • Math anxiety
  • Parents
  • Teachers