Friday, February 13, 2009

Dads Impact Girls’ Math Interest

Dads have a major impact on the degree of interest their daughters develop in math. That's one of the findings of a long-term University of Michigan study that has traced the sources of the continuing gender gap in math and science performance.

(Chart: Number of math and science items purchased for boys and girls by parents.)
"We've known for a while now that females do as well as males on tests that measure ability in math and science," said Pamela Davis-Kean, a psychologist at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR). "But women are still underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math graduate programs and in careers based on those disciplines.
"It's as if women are saying, "I can, but I don't want to," according to Davis-Kean.
Researchers found that girls' interest in math decreases as their fathers' gender stereotypes increase, whereas boys' interest in math increases as their fathers' gender stereotypes increase."Fathers' gender stereotypes are very important in supporting—or in undermining—daughters' choices to pursue training in math and science," Davis-Kean said.
Davis-Kean and colleagues analyzed how parents' values and attitudes affect children's math performance and later interest, and how these attitudes vary by the child's gender. They used data from a longitudinal study of more than 800 children and a large group of their parents that began in 1987 and continued through 2000.

They found that parents provided more math-supportive environments for their sons than for their daughters, including buying more math and science toys for the boys. They also spent more time on math and science activities with their sons than with their daughters.

(Chart: Impact of father’s gender stereotypes on son’s and daughter’s interest in math.)

Davis-Kean and colleagues also found that parents' attitudes, particularly stereotypes they hold about whether math and science are more important for boys than for girls, have a significant effect on their children's later math achievement, and even on their eventual career choices.


that's me - Nandini said...

This is really interesting. It makes complete sense too. Even helping boys develop an interest in these needs parental intervention. And most parents do shy away from introducing their daughters to things they believe are more 'for boys'.
My daughter is 4 years and 8 months old. She loves Backyard Science on television apart from her usual cartoons. I realised, my interest in Backyard Science and sitting down with her and discussing the experiments every time encouraged her. She probably loved the interest it generated.
Both, my husband and me have been very sure about encouraging her to question from a very very young age., even before she could say words in the language understood by all. Science is also more about curiosity. We have tried to SHOW her the answers to many questions - day and night, how flowers stay fresh longer in water in a vase at home, seasonal changes in plants, full moon...and many more. She has been showing a curious interest in everything around her and we also have been loving it and encouraging her.
The other day, as I mentioned in my blog, she asked me how to make yoghurt, which is an integral part of Indian meals, specially South Indian meals. I made sure she did it that very evening and the whole family was excited about it.

Michael Davis said...

Its great to see that parental involvement in a child's learning and development continues to grow. Just placing a child in front of book or computer doesn't do much. I think that a tailored lesson plan combined with parental involvement and positive encouragement are the keys to improved math and English skills. We have used this model to implement a tutoring program that you can do out of your own home. The results are amazing! Just like most things in life, people perform better in a team environment.

Come check out our tutoring program, Progressive Learning At Home, and let me know if you think children can benefit from our program. I would appreciate any and all feedback.

Thank you.

Michael Davis
Program Coordinator
Progressive Learning At Home