The Interference of stereotype threat with women's generation of mathematical problem-solving strategies

This paper reported the results from two studies examining the effects of stereotype threat on problem solving, focusing on the stereotype of male superiority in mathematical ability. Experiment 1 focused on the performance of male and female students on mathematical word problems. When problems were presented in a verbal format, males outperformed females. When the word problems were presented in their basic numeric form however, performance was equivalent for both genders. In Experiment 2, male and female students attempted to solve the same difficult math problems in either standard conditions (where there exists a stereotype of male superiority in math), or in a control condition where participants were told that "men and women perform equally well on these problems. Problem-solving strategies were assessed by having students speak aloud and take notes as they attempted to answer math problems. Women were less effective than men at formulating strategies but only in the standard (i.e., stereotype threat) condition. These results suggest that individuals operating under stereotype threat can experience difficulty formulating and utilizing task-relevant cognitions that assist in solving problems.

Quinn, D. M., & Spencer, S. J. (2001). The Interference of stereotype threat with women's generation of mathematical problem-solving strategies. Journal of Social Issues, 57, 55-71.

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