Teachers underrate girls in maths

Major study finds that teachers underestimate girls' performance relative to boys of the same level, when assessing maths work

Helen Ward

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Teachers tend to rate girls as less good at maths than boys who have similar levels of performance, a major new study reveals.

Researchers in the US suggested that this underrating of girls could be one of the -reasons that boys were more likely to score high marks in maths than girls – a gender gap that increases as children get older.

The study, by academics from New York University, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and West Chester University, looked at maths test scores from more than 12,500 children and compared them to -teachers’ assessments of their maths -performance and behaviour.

“Teachers give lower ratings to girls when boys and girls perform and behave similarly,” the research team states in a paper published on AERA Open, an open-access journal from the American Educational Research Association.

“This suggests that teachers must perceive girls as working harder than similarly achieving boys in order to rate them as similarly proficient in maths,” they add.

Maths and gender

Sue Pope, from the UK’s Association of Teachers of Mathematics, said that an awareness of the dangers of gender stereotyping could help to combat the problem.

“There is quite a lot of evidence that teacher expectations are different for boys and girls,” she added. “Classrooms are complicated -places and people don’t notice they are -treating boys differently. 

“It is good for teachers to be aware of this so they can do that self-check: ‘Who do I get to answer my questions? Is it always the boys?’ 

“You don’t want to label children and you don’t want to exaggerate the differences, but if you are not aware, then you can’t be attuned to what may be influencing you.”

This is an edited version of an article in the 11 November edition of TES. Subscribers can view the full article here. This week's TES magazine is available at all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here

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Helen Ward

Helen Ward

Helen Ward is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @teshelen

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