Students express the stereotype that mathematics is for boys and not for girls. This may happen as early as in their second grade, according to University of Washington researchers. They identified the stereotype to themselves, whereby boys identified themselves with mathematics unlike the girls. The stereotype that mathematics is for boys has lead to girls dropping from per suing science and mathematics related careers. This stereotype has further nudged girls to think that mathematics is not for them, which has affected the activities they do and the careers they aspire to indulge themselves in.
The new study on child development states that the lack of interest in mathematics and science related subjects by girls may be generated by messages communicated culturally about mathematics being best suited for boys and not for girls. A research was done by Cvencek and his co-authors in Yugoslavia to prove whether the stereotype holds. This was necessitated by the fact that Cvencek was born in a place where the stereotype that boys are better in mathematics than girls never existed. That is, he was born in a place where there was equal like for the subject by both genders. He therefore carried out this study with the core aim of eliminating the doubts. However, the number of youngsters who identify themselves with mathematics is left out of the former research of math-gender stereotype. Though some studies show that both boys and girls recognize the fact that mathematics is for boys, it is not clear whether they have knowledge on gender stereotype, or just apply the fact to them hence affecting their actions and interests. This calls for sensitization that the math stereotype that it is for boys need to be addressed by experts in guidance and counseling for young people.
Result findings and their implications
In their research, Cvencek and others used a categorized test based on a computer in accessing how pupils link mathematics with gender. In addition to this, they integrated the implicit association test in their research. The adult test by another co-author, Professor Anthony Greensward, probes immense self concepts, some stereotypes and also attitudes. The test captures stereotypes through measuring the intensity to which the respondents associate academic subjects such as sciences and mathematics with either male or female connotations. The stereotype would be assumed to be stronger if the rate of response was fast as compared to when it was slow.
Finally, the researchers adapted the implicit association test for young people and used it to view some concepts. These concepts were; why children associate mathematics with boys, math-self concept and math gender-stereotype. The 247 kids, that is, 126 and 121 girls and boys respectively, sat in front of laptop computer mounted with a large screen. They used an adopted keyboard in sorting words into categories. The results proved true that boys are associated with maths as compared to girls in that, children sorted four different words in math-gender stereotype. The first word was boy names, followed by girl names, math words and finally the reading words. Young people showing signs of math-gender stereotype are expected to be fast in sorting words if the boy names are put together with math words and when girl names are put together with reading words. Notwithstanding, they are expected to act slowly if the boy names are paired with reading words and girl names to math words. The proof of the results is a surety that boys are associated with mathematics. This has lead to having confidence when they decide the careers to pursue, as compared to girls.
In their second grade, children demonstrate stereotype for mathematics, with boys associating it with their own gender and girls associating it with boys. Boys identify themselves with mathematics than girls, in the self concept test. According to studies, it is clear that cultural stereotypes are absorbed in early development of children. As children develop, they engage in activities that call for societal attention. The society either encourages or discourages the activity done by children, depending on the gender. For example, boys engage in activities that portray science and mathematics related behaviors, whereas girls do engage in word related activities such as spelling games.
Hence, necessary education and parental guidance is necessary in ensuring that there is enhancement of girls’ concept for mathematics and sciences. Children are better in assimilating their parents’ exhibited stereotypes, those of their educators and the media. Both girls and boys will learn better what their parents, media, friends and the society does. They either get motivated negatively or positively depending on the signal message that they get. The implication is that everyone should be a good ambassador in ensuring that we portray an excellent picture that all subjects are equally performed by both boys and girls. A renowned researcher Meltzoff says that if on depiction that mathematics and sciences are both for boys and girls, then the interests on the subject can be broadened on both genders. This would certainly offer equal opportunities to accessing mathematics and science related careers.
There are other stereotypes that emerge in day to day live, just like the math stereotype; they have been proved to be true after research findings. For example, there is a stress related stereotype, whereby women are termed as the most stressful creatures. In this stereotype, girls are assumed to be more prone to depression and stress related activities than boys. Some theories such as biological differences, age depression differences prevalence and depression rates explain why girls are more susceptible to stress and depression compared to boys.
According to studies, the gender differences in depression show their symptoms in early adolescence, and remain constant in the adult life. It is also evidential that adolescence girls show stress and depression signs at an early age as compared to boys. This can be caused by a variety of reasons such as pubertal change challenges and individual vulnebility to stress and depression.
Moreover, girls are more vulnerable to stress and depression activities before adolescence as compared to their male counterparts. This analysis has been examined through careful examinations, as in the math stereotype case. The hypothesis that guided the analysis were (George & Conger, 2003, pp. 4-5): that girls demonstrate higher average levels of depression signs than the adolescent boys during the adolescence, and the higher level of depression among the girls is higher as compared with that for boys during the early adolescence. This study shows that the stress and depression levels are the same even for married women. They tend to outdo their male counterparts due to challenges they face in life as compared to men.
Additionally, a research done by NACADA (Kenya), shows that boys are more likely to engage in drugs compared to girls. This is because boys are adventurers as compared to girls. The number of school boys that take alcohol, for example, has increased tremendously over the past decade.