Hatshepsut of Egypt by Shirin Yim Bridges,Albert Nguyen

By Shirin Yim Bridges,Albert Nguyen

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By treating boys and girls differently, teachers encouraged ‘the exploratory, autonomous, independent mathematical skills associated with males . ’ and discouraged them in females (Birns, 1976). Similarly, teachers gave extra attention to boys who chose to play at more complex tasks, but did not reward girls for the same behavior (Fagot, 1978). In addition, girls received few rewards for highly active behavior, whereas boys gained the attention of their teachers and also the admiration of their peers.

These perceptions and self-concepts illustrate the notion of the construction of gender schema (Bem, 1983), a highly selective process GENDER , SEX AND SCIENCE comprising ‘a sprawling network of associations’ in which information is taken in and organized according to the sex-differentiated values of the culture. A schema functions as a cognitive structure, serving to anticipate and make sense of new information coming in based on preexisting perceptions. For instance, boys and girls at age two had ‘concepts’ of persons by occupation only if they had previous exposure to people holding the particular role.

Thus, females appear to have the same aptitude for mathematics as males, but begin to lose interest and take only the minimum requirement in high school. Based on class grades, girls and boys are similar in mathematical and scientific ability until about tenth grade when girls decline to take elective mathematics courses. It is then that sex differences in problem-solving abilities begin to emerge. The question is not that of inherent ability, but one of why girls drop out of mathematics courses in high school and college (Hyde, 1994).

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