“Math is hard!” cries Teen Talk Barbie. Those words made Matel revamp the doll so that she did not say she found math hard after protesters insisted that it was degrading to women. It turns out that they were right according to a study researched at the University of Missouri.
According to the study titled, “Can stereotype threat explain the sex gap in mathematics performance and achievement?” there is no gender difference when it comes to math skills. Many people believe that women are worse at quantitative reasoning then men. In fact, it has become a theory so widely accepted that even a toy company felt compelled to agree and the stereotype has plagued women around the world.
But, the research at the University of Missouri disproves the theory partly due to no evidence on the contrary. This stereotype has been fueled because there are typically more men in the higher tiers of in fields requiring math. And, previous studies on the subject have been conducted using wrongly projected statistics and no actual scientific base.
The birth of this idea was thanks to an article found in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology printed in 1999. The idea was that due to a stereotype threat, women are doomed to be less superior than men in math. In turn, this makes women without confidence quantitative reasoning and less willing to develop math skills.
The research found is going to be published in the Review of General Psychology as it explains the lack of fundamental controls in previous experiments. This was the basis of the study as researchers discovered past studies lacked proper statistics because males were not subjected to the same experiment varieties and controls as women. However, as a result of these finding, people accepted that women were worse off in math. As this theory persisted, many researchers dedicated their resources to fixing a problem that didn’t need fixing.
Researchers have found that when a subject is told that they will not perform well on a difficult test, then the subject performs below average regardless of their sex. This recent study proves that there is no basis for the stereotype that men are better at math. Individual results in math are based solely on a person’s ability to work through a problem and not whether they are male or female.
Understandably, the lead research physiologist, David Geary, is concerned with how the stereotype is affecting women, [There are a] “disproportionate number of men in top levels of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. We need more women to succeed in these fields for our economy and for our future.” Hopefully, this study will help spread the wrongness of this stereotype and women will gain momentum in these fields.