Educational Mathematics – Gender Equality in STEM

Posted Jul 02, 2020

Forty years after research revealed sex-related differences in math achievement and participation in grades 6-12 (Fennema & Sherman, 1977, 1978; Sherman & Fennema, 1977), American teachers are still actively working to erase gender inequity in STEM subjects. Despite professional development, awareness training, and refocused curriculum and teaching materials, we continue to grapple with students’ perceptions of who can succeed when pursuing a career in mathematics. In a national survey, recently conducted by the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics (SIAM), results indicate that not only do high school males favor math more than females, they also have more confidence in math classes.

Although there are smaller differences between males and females regarding achievement and content understanding, there is still a sizable gap when it comes to preference and perceptions. With nearly a half-century of documentation and research-based best practices, how can our schools finally meet the challenge of helping all students realize their full potential in mathematics? Why are we still in a position of struggling to increase the number of women in STEM? What will actually make a difference, helping females (and, in particular, high school girls) recognize their mathematical power? 

For more information on research on gender differences in mathematics, including SIAM’s survey and recommendations, visit:

MAEM Graduate Director Jeff Smith