Paradoxical Gender Gaps in Mathematics Achievement: Pressure as a key

AbstractTwo studies explore gender gaps that favor girls in low-stakes learning contexts yet are not evident in high-stakes achievement measures. Study 1 (n = 386) combined control data across multiple experiments testing student’s learning from a challenging proportional reasoning lesson to explore consistent gender gaps in favor of girls. This learning gap could not be explained by the baseline mathematics, affective, motivational, or Executive Function individual differences we measured. In Study 2 (n =178), we experimentally manipulated pressure, raising the stakes by telling some students that their performance would determine whether or not their entire class received an incentive. Gender gaps in favor of girls remained in the absence of pressure, but when external pressure was imposed before or after learning, the female advantage disappeared. These data suggest managing feelings of pressure in learning or testing contexts may be an important step in ultimately increasing female representation in math-intensive fields.

Return to previous page