Yes, studies have shown that on average, males tend to report higher levels of math confidence than females. However, this is not a universal truth and there are many individual differences within genders.
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Studies have consistently found that there is a gender difference in math confidence, with males reporting higher levels of confidence than females on average. This has been observed across countries and age groups, with the gap in confidence increasing with age.
Interestingly, this difference in math confidence does not seem to be related to differences in math ability or performance between genders. In fact, some studies have found that females actually outperform males in math when compared to their grades in other subjects.
There are various factors that have been suggested to contribute to the gender difference in math confidence, including societal stereotypes and biases, lack of representation of females in STEM fields, and differences in educational experiences.
As noted by mathematician and Fields Medal laureate Maryam Mirzakhani, “mathematics is more than just finding solutions to problems… it’s a language and way of thinking that benefits everyone, regardless of gender or background.” It is important to address the factors that contribute to the gender gap in math confidence and ensure that all individuals have equal opportunities to explore and excel in mathematics.
Table: Comparison of average math confidence levels reported by males and females
- A study of over 350,000 students across 10 countries found that males reported higher math confidence than females across all countries.
- The gender gap in math confidence has been observed as early as primary school, with one study finding that five-year-old boys were more likely to assert their math abilities than girls.
- In some countries, such as Iceland and Thailand, the gender gap in math confidence has been found to be smaller or nonexistent.
- Research suggests that increasing female representation in STEM fields and promoting female role models in math and science can help close the gender gap in math confidence.
Response video to “Is there a gender difference in math confidence?”
The speaker in this video addresses the gender gap in mathematics and highlights how it impacts students of different genders.Stereotypes surrounding gender and mathematics, and a lack of recognition for female mathematicians are cited as factors in the perceived difference in confidence and performance between genders. The speaker emphasizes the need to eliminate gender biases in teaching to ensure all students have an equal opportunity to excel in mathematics.They also discuss a study that suggests girls in classes taught by highly math-anxious teachers performed worse in math, possibly due to accepting stereotypes about gender and math, yet maintaining a positive attitude towards math can help girls perform well regardless of their teacher’s attitudes. The speaker argues that solving the problem of girls being held back in math needs to be addressed on a societal level with the belief in gender equality in math being held by all teachers and students.
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In the past, gender was consistently identified as an important factor associated with math confidence, math anxiety, and performance on math assessments; however, there is evidence that the underperformance of females relative to males in math is disappearing, at least in K–12 (Hyde et al., 2008).
Following 7040 students from 3rd to 8th grades, we examined gender differences in math confidence, interest, and performance and examined relations among these variables over time. Results indicate that gender differences in math confidence are larger than disparities in interest and achievement in elementary school.
Interestingly, we often see larger gender difference in other math-related outcomes compared with overall performance. Girls tend to have less positive math attitudes: They have higher levels of math anxiety and lower levels of confidence in their math skills.
Research consistently shows that, even from a fairly young age, girls are less confident and more anxious about math than boys. Moreover, these differences in confidence and anxiety are larger than actual gender differences in math achievement.
In regard to math confidence, numerous studies have found that girls are less confident in their math abilities than are boys (Else-Quest, N. M., et al., 2010, Herbert, J. and Stipek, D., 2005, Hyde, J.S., et al., 2008, Hyde, J. S., et al., 1990, Marsh, H. W. and Yeung, A. S., 1998, Watt, H. M. G., 2004).
Furthermore, mathematical abilities have different effects on male and female students. While ability alone increases confidence and decreases overconfidence, the interaction effect of feminine gender and ability is negative.
The finding that girls around the world appear to have less confidence in their mathematical abilities could help explain why young girls are less likely than boys to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Linear mixed model analyses of the trial-level data revealed that girls’/women’s estimates had about 31% more error than did boys’/men’s estimates, and even when controlling for precision, girls/women were about 7% less confident in their estimates than were boys/men.
The two studies also assessed students’ level of confidence in their math abilities and how important they felt it was to do well in math in order to have a successful career. Despite overall similarities in math skills, boys felt significantly more confident in their abilities than girls did and were more motivated to do well.
Fennema and Sherman (1978) identified as critical, beliefs about the usefulness of and confidence in learning mathematics, with males providing evidence that they were more confident about learning mathematics and believed that mathematics was, and would be, more useful to them than did females.
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Some gender differences have also been found in math anxiety. Women are more prone than men to be affected by math anxiety which is likely why they are highly underrepresented in STEM fields (Maloney et al., 2012).