Combating Math-Gender Stereotype Threat with Parent Education in Jewish Day Schools
There is a significant gender gap in the STEM fields—a gap that is attributable to factors that occur much earlier than previously believed and that can be linked to early interactions with prominent role models such as parents. Given the crucial role that mothers play in a child’s development, it was important to understand how they affect math anxiety and math-gender stereotype, with the long-term goal of reducing both. This design-based research study, which took place on four separate occasions at three different Jewish day school sites, engaged mothers of middle school-aged students (male and female) in a parent education workshop. The workshop was designed to teach mothers about the impact of math-gender stereotype threat and math anxiety on students’ math performance and provide them with strategies for assisting their children with math. In keeping with the design-based research model, the workshop was modified following each iteration based on participant feedback and retrospective analysis. Results indicate that participants learned about the negative implications of math-gender stereotype threat on their children’s future math performance. Posttest survey results further indicate that mothers learned strategies to help their children with math such as how to use open-ended questions, how to put the onus on the child to answer a math problem, and how to be aware of the language they use when assisting a child with math homework. The parent education workshop developed for this study can be utilized in the future by school leaders and researchers as a first step toward combating the pervasive stereotype that “women can’t do math.” Findings from this study contribute to the field on a larger scale by potentially uncovering a small step toward greater long-term gender equity in STEM fields.