Women are bad at math when you tell them they're bad at math

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Women are bad at math when you tell them they're bad at math

Postby spacefem » Sun May 17, 8:32 2009

Researchers gave math tests to a few hundred college students after telling them about various stereotypes. Sometimes the stereotype was, "College students are better at math than non-college students." Sometimes it was, "Women aren't good at math." Either way, students tended to fulfill whatever stereotype they were told. People who were told a positive stereotype did better on the math and memory tests.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/20 ... 094300.htm

I think it makes a good case for why we have to counteract stereotypes, stop acting like we're all above it and not affected by them.

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Re: Women are bad at math when you tell them they're bad at math

Postby The Other Lizard » Sun May 17, 16:24 2009

Explains a lot. Apparently, when really young kids are given aptitute tests for sciences, girls and boys come out equally, but then by the time they reach university, the reason so many fewer girls choose to study sciences is because they think they aren't capable.
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Re: Women are bad at math when you tell them they're bad at

Postby Lime » Sun May 17, 16:30 2009

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Last edited by Lime on Fri May 10, 10:04 2013, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Women are bad at math when you tell them they're bad at math

Postby spacefem » Sun May 17, 17:34 2009

Zeph wrote:We would always say, "This is useless! How would we use this in the real world?" and the teacher would just assign detentions.


nice.

I honestly think there's a perception problem among lots of teachers who are teaching math, especially at the elementary school level, those people have to take college algebra and that's it. They have no grasp of how mathematicians actually operate, or what math is for. If you ask a teacher why art is important, you get these big cultural/society/thinking-type answers. But they'll tell you math is for balancing your checkbook? That's like saying we learn to write so we can fill out job applications.

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Re: Women are bad at math when you tell them they're bad at math

Postby lizpoona » Sun May 17, 18:21 2009

Over the past couple of months, i've gotten myself to realize that iactually do like math.

IWhat convinced me was remebering Algebra II, specifically the instance where i looked at the graph of an equtaion where the line continually goes toward zero but never reaches it for eternity. That line was getting infinitely closer to zero, reaching smaller and smaller and smaller numbers that I couldn't even imagine... obviously, I found this fascinating.

So now that i've dabbled in studying physics and quantum theory, i see math as a kind of language, a kind of strange art that is currently really mysterious but really interesting. Like, how does this or that work? What does this equation show about the nature of our universe? What is it unveling?

It's not that I have equations memorized or that I'm able to think very logically, but I'm more open to learning the equations that let you describe invisible things.


yea. Math teachers need to let us in on the fantasy side of mathematics.
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Re: Women are bad at math when you tell them they're bad at math

Postby rowan » Mon May 18, 7:29 2009

This seems like a followup study to others that have produced similar results, which have shown things like: if you tell students that a test is gender-neutral, and that women perform just as well as men on the test, then they will. (men's scores stay the same; women's go up)

I agree that it really needs to come down to changing perceptions and working with K-12 teachers. A lot of K-12 teachers don't necessarily know what the cool things going on in math or physics or whatever (a failing of higher ed, IMO), in addition to also reinforcing the "that's hard" stereotypes.

Actually. It'd be good to point this out to a friend of mine so that she can print copies and leave it surreptitiously around work, where a lot of the teachers are so negative toward their students. (The [at-risk] students love my friend who gives them *positive* goals and tells them they *can* do it)
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Re: Women are bad at math when you tell them they're bad at math

Postby Butterfly North » Mon May 18, 8:58 2009

Could this be about living up to expectations? So if most people are under the impression that women do worse on science tests then I don't have to worry if I perform worse-than-average because everyone expected it, I can get away with underperforming. I think this was true of my science classes at high school - I was actually quite interested in science just not interested enough to do any of the homework. Ever. But the teacher didn't mind because I kept getting average grades in class and obviously that meant I was above average... for a girl. I think he thought I was trying quite hard.

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Re: Women are bad at math when you tell them they're bad at math

Postby rowan » Mon May 18, 9:38 2009

In the studies I've read (I haven't had time to read this one) it's not that the women were trying to "get away with" doing worse. You're not dealing with a classroom - remember these are controlled studies we're talking about. One group is told one thing (e.g. this test is gender-neutral) and another group isn't told anything, and another group the stereotype that women are "worse" at math is reinforced (depending on the study, this can be done in a variety of ways; verbally, by watching videos of women struggling with math vs men not, etc). Then the exact same test is given.

In some cases, studies have been done using exams where women have a vested interest in doing well.
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Re: Women are bad at math when you tell them they're bad at math

Postby Pyro Chick » Mon May 18, 10:06 2009

I heard about this in my psychology class. They've also done other studies with other races, like giving African-Americans a test in science and telling some of them "Black people are bad at science"

It's called the "stereotype threat" and it means that knowing you are being judged as inferior will distort test performance.
(I totally just copy/pasted that from my Psychology notes)
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Re: Women are bad at math when you tell them they're bad at math

Postby Enigma » Tue May 19, 21:40 2009

Hey I was totally trying to explain this in another thread not that long ago.. but without citing anything. :P

Brains are weird.
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Re: Women are bad at math when you tell them they're bad at math

Postby lizpoona » Thu May 21, 23:33 2009

I totally failed the math assesment for my community college today, which means now I get to start off with a remedial algebra course in college.
:speachless:


I wonder if it has to do with th fact that right before the test the lady who helps me get stuff done lectured me about being the only girl to hang out with agroup of guys the previous night, and how I could have gotten raped because I'm a girl. I was feeling very inadequate, because I absolutely hate being told something is wrong based on gender. bleh. I was very upset during the test.
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Re: Women are bad at math when you tell them they're bad at math

Postby Kiss The Monkey » Fri May 22, 18:44 2009

I heard this in psychology, along with other things.

I really am bad at math, though. Not as bad as people tend to think, but still not very good.

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Re: Women are bad at math when you tell them they're bad at math

Postby spallanzani » Sat May 23, 17:31 2009

lizpoona wrote:I totally failed the math assesment for my community college today, which means now I get to start off with a remedial algebra course in college.
:speachless:


I wonder if it has to do with th fact that right before the test the lady who helps me get stuff done lectured me about being the only girl to hang out with agroup of guys the previous night, and how I could have gotten raped because I'm a girl. I was feeling very inadequate, because I absolutely hate being told something is wrong based on gender. bleh. I was very upset during the test.


WTF? If I were a guy, hearing that would piss me the hell off (actually it pisses me off anyway but it would be worse if I were a guy). Of course everybody should take reasonable precautions against being attacked or raped, but men are not rabid dogs just waiting for an opportune moment to gang rape a woman alone, and having another woman around won't automatically make you any safer.

Also sorry about your math test :-(. If you were feeling inadequate it could definitely have affected the test. Maybe the college will let you retake it?
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Re: Women are bad at math when you tell them they're bad at math

Postby rowan » Mon May 25, 16:41 2009

I would definitely see if you could re-take the test; that kind of thing can very well have an effect on your exam, especially since you were still feeling inadequate and upset during the test.
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Re: Women are bad at math when you tell them they're bad at math

Postby Bork » Thu May 28, 13:07 2009

I went to an undergrad research talk that was looking at this. It was really, really interesting, and very eye-opening. Basically, she talked about how women are conditioned, both conciously and not, from an early age to think that they can't do well in math and science because they're women, and as a result of this, they don't do well. She also made some really good points about women lacking female role models in math/science fields, and that probably contributing significantly.
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