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12 January 2010

Confidence boosts maths skills

Girls are as good as boys at maths, but boys have more confidence in their mathematics abilities, according to researchers who analysed international data.

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Girls are as good as boys at maths, but boys have more confidence in their mathematics abilities, according to researchers who analysed international data.

The finding that girls worldwide have less confidence in their maths abilities may help explain why females are less likely than males to pursue careers in mathematics, engineering, science and technology, wrote study author Nicole Else-Quest, a psychology professor at Villanova University in Pennsylvania, US, and colleagues.

Gender equity linked to math skills

The researchers found that girls in countries where gender equity is more common are more likely to have higher scores on maths assessment tests. Girls were also more likely to do better in maths and to have more confidence in their mathematics skills if they lived in countries with more women in research-related positions, the study authors noted.

"Stereotypes about female inferiority in mathematics are a distinct contrast to the actual scientific data. These results show that girls will perform at the same level as the boys when they are given the right educational tools and have visible female role models excelling in mathematics," Else-Quest said in a news release from the American Psychological Association.

The study

For this study, the researchers analysed data on 493,495 students from 69 countries, aged 14 to 16, who took part in two studies, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study and the Program for International Student Assessment.

"This meta-analysis shows us that while the quality of instruction and curriculum affects children's learning, so do the value that schools, teachers and families place on girls' learning maths. Girls are likely to perform as well as boys when they are encouraged to succeed," Else-Quest said.

The study is published in the Psychological Bulletin. - (HealthDay News, January 2010)

 
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