Is Math a Gift? Beliefs That Put Females At Risk

Carol S. Dweck

When exposed to new, confusing material, research from Professor Carol S. Dweck of Stanford University found that fifth-grade girls with high IQs were hindered by it, impacting their ability to consequently learn the material, whereas fifth-grade boys were not. In fact, for boys, they were "energized" by the confusing material, providing them with more drive to learn it. Additional research into the reasons for this phenomenon led to the following conclusions: Those who perceived "intellectual ability" as an aptitude that could be attained fared much better with their grades and in staying enthusiastic about learning, as compared to those who saw it as a "gift" that someone either possessed or did not. Those in the former school of thought were also found to be less apt to be defeated by negative stereotypes applied to females who engage in scientific or mathematical work. In an effort to determine how to close the gender gap in mathematical and scientific academic performance, Professor Dweck and her colleague(s) found a positive result from educating girls that one's intellectual capabilities are not stagnate. This strategy was successful, and resulted in a closing gender gap in math class grades. This finding is supported by another study conducted by different researchers, as well.

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